A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Twisted Blues” is from guitarist Wes Mongonery’s 1961 album So Much Guitar!, which also features the great Hank Jones on piano. As with many guitarist-penned compositions, it’s primarily played by guitar-led groups, but this shouldn’t stop us pianists and keyboardists from enjoying it too. It’s a fun, medium-uptempo swinger that incorporated both stop-time rhythms and bluesy licks, so it gives us a lot to dive into.

Recommended videos/recordings:
(for international readers who may not have access to these YouTube links, I’ve indicated the original album names wherever possible so you can listen to them on music streaming services, etc.)

Wes Montgomery: So Much Guitar!

Wes Montgomery: from Legends Of Jazz Guitar, Vol 1 (live video)

Joey DeFrancesco

Check out DeFrancesco’s jazz organ solo on this one!

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Ive noticed that many jazz musicians will look at a tune like “Twisted Blues,” notice that it’s in the “hard” key of Gb, and immediately turn the page. And yes, I’ve done this myself a few times. But more often, I’ve viewed this as a chance to become comfortable playing in these types of keys, so I’ve usually been wiling to sound less-than-perfect for a while, knowing that I’d eventually be able to play in Gb, Db, and B just as well as in the more common keys.

The Gb major tonality actually gives the tune nice mellowness, and this reminds me of all the wonderful gospel music that’s in the “flat” keys of Db and Gb as well. Listen to Wes Montgomery’s recording of the tune (linked to above) to get the overall feel and then give it a try for yourself.

You’ll also notice that despite its title “Twisted Blues” isn’t a blues, form-wise. It begins with a chromatic alternation from Gb7 to G7, similar to Thelonious Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t” and “Epistrophy.” The tune’s last 4 measure also “twist” and turn through a series of quick ii-V sequences.

Even when you’re encountering a challenging tune such as this, be sure to always enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

Further links and resources:
So Much Guitar!: Wikipedia

A transcription and analysis of Wes Montgomery’s guitar solo on “Twisted Blues”
By Steve Kahn

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

How To Learn Jazz Piano
A podcast to help you learn jazz piano more effectively

Take a Free Jazz Piano Lesson

Mastering The Real Book: A 10-week Skype Intensive for Jazz Pianists

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