A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Up Jumped Spring” is a 1962 composition by trumpeter/composer Freddie Hubbard. It’s written in a traditional AABA form, except that the ‘A’ sections have 16 measures each while the bridge is half that length, with only 8 measures. It’s a fun tune to play and can bring some variety to your repertoire if you find you’ve been playing the same tunes over and over.

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.)

Freddie Hubbard: Backlash

Kenny Barron and Gary Bartz: Jazz at Lincoln Center

It’s helpful to listen to a pianist play duets with another instrument, as Kenny Barron does on this live recording with saxophonist Gary Bartz. The duet environment brings out solo pianistic textures at times as well as some ways of playing that resemble how a pianist would play as part of a rhythm section. You can bring all of these elements into your own playing by studying recordings such as this one.

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Tunes like “Up Jumped Spring” remind us how much the “modern” jazz players were informed by the past. This is especially true of the 1960s generation of jazz greats, since many of them developed musically during the Hard Bop period of the late 1950s. We can see this with musicians such as Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and the composer of this tune, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard.

“Up Jumped Spring” starts out with the most traditional chord progression in all of jazz: I/VI/ii/V. George Gershwin was using this same sequence of chords way back in the 1920s! But what Hubbard does next is different: He takes a minor 7th chord and moves down stepwise, through various keys: Gm7-Fm7-Em7. But before it gets too “far out,” he follows the Em7 with an A7, forming a ii-V in the key of D.

This balance between the old and the new is part of what makes a tune like “Up Jumped Spring” so fascinating to play. Add a lively, catchy melody and all the rhythms that a jazz waltz implies, and we get a true jazz standard. Have fun playing this great tune by one of the all-time great jazz players, Freddie Hubbard!

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

Further links and resources:
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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