A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Wait Till You See Her” is a beautiful “pop” song from 1942 (in the pre-rock era now known as the Great American Songbook). Composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Lorenz Hart wrote the song for the musical production ”By Jupiter.” Like many musical theater songs of that time, “Wait Till You See Her” became a popular hit, being covered by many vocal and instrumental recording artists.

One thing that’s great about The Real Book is that we can use it to lead us to wonderful “pockets” of jazz history that we might not otherwise encounter. So while “Wait Till You See Her” may not be the most common jam session tune, you can follow the link below to hear the Miles Davis/ Gil Evans version.

Davis and Evans were best friends and originally collaborated on two tunes during the late 1940s for the recordings now known as The Birth Of The Cool (the tunes, which Evans arranged, were Boplicity and Moondreams. Boplicity is in The Real Book.) A few years later, in the 1950s, the pair produced their string of 3 legendary albums: Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess, and Sketches of Spain. These 3 albums represent a pinnacle in the history of jazz and many wonderful musicians, Quincy Jones among them, have listed these recordings as all-time favorites.

Davis and Evans planned to make a fourth album together, based on Brazilian bossa novas, which were becoming very popular in the US at the time. They began recording but never properly finished the album, which is called Quiet Nights. Despite its unfinished quality, the album does contain some gems such as their interpretation of “Wait Till You See Her.” Have a listen, and let it be a way to get deeper into all the music they made together.

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.)

Miles Davis and Gil Evans: Quiet Nights

George Shearing: The Swingin’s Mutual!

Frank Sinatra

Nobody delivers a song like Ol’ Blue Eyes!

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Although the tune was originally written as a waltz, it seems as if everyone plays “Wait Till You See Her” with a slightly different groove! The Real Book lists it as a waltz, but Gil Evans arranged it for Miles Davis as a ballad in 4/4 time, with a background of Brazilian percussion. George Shearing kept it in ¾, but plays it as a kind of “bolero” instead of a waltz. And Frank Sinatra sings it as a ballad, with the instrumental section moving into a more traditional waltz tempo.

Listen to all of these versions and decide which one you prefer as a starting point. And then, let your imagination take the tune to a place where it expresses what you have to offer as a performer.

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

Further links and resources:
Rodgers and Hart: Wikipedia

Rodgers and Hart’s Dysfunctional Partnership
A fascinating profile of the famed songwriting team.

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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