A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
After “Someday My Prince Will Come,” Bill Evan’s “Waltz For Debby” is the jazz waltz to learn! Evans first recorded it in 1956 and lyrics were later added by Gene Lees. It’s not an easy tune to play, however, so be prepared to dig in, do some serious woodshedding, and enjoy every step of the way!

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.)

Bill Evans Trio (video)

Cannonball Adderley: Know What I Mean?

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
The melody to “Waltz For Debby” sounds easy, but the chords are definitely not! Evans changes chords and keys pretty quickly, and the musical form unfolds in wonderful yet unpredictable ways as well. At some point, you have to “dig in” and spent a lot of time practicing the tune in order to internalize it. It might take a while, too. Don’t let this discourage you, though. One of the great joys of jazz is coming back to the same tunes, year after year, and seeing how we now approach them differently and play them at our current level and with a new understanding.

There have been several excellent books of Bill Evans transcriptions published over the years. “Waltz For Debby” is in the book I’ve linked to below. I’ve had a lot of fun playing his chord voicings in this book and it’s well worth it to get the book and learn what he played, note-for-note.

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

Further links and resources:
The Best Way To Use The Real Book

Bill Evans: The Creative Process
This is an excerpt from an excellent video where Evans was interviewed by his older brother, Harry. He demonstrates some points at the piano.

Bill Evans’ journey from Boogie Woogie to modern jazz

Some essential Bill Evans jazz piano recordings

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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