A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
You’ll probably find yourself performing “When Sunny Gets Blue” more often with vocalists then in instrumental settings. I’m not sure why, since it’s a beautiful tune that works equally well with or without the lyric. In any event, it was composed in 1956 by Marvin Fischer and Jack Segal and has been a favorite of jazz singers ever since.

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.)

Carmen McRae: Bittersweet

McCoy Tyner: Today And Tomorrow

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
I remember once when I was asked to play a tune in a concert with a famous jazz saxophonist and a fairly well-known vocalist. It was just going to be the three of us performing as a trio and I was pretty excited. We hadn’t selected a song ahead of time and at the start of the rehearsal, the vocalist turned to me, looked me right in the eyes and said, “Do you know 'When Sunny Gets Blue?’” The tone in her voice made it sound like a challenge! Luckily, I had played the tune on a regular basis in a college group I had been in, so I was prepared. We rehearsed it in the key of C and went on to give a beautiful performance later that evening.

Playing with jazz vocalists can provide you with many opportunities, and as this story shows, it helps to know some tunes. Take some time to memorize a few of these “jazz vocal ballads” like “When Sunny Gets Blue,” “When I Fall In Love,” and “Misty.” Jazz vocalists are always looking for good accompanists and this can be an excellent way to establish yourself as a professional jazz pianist.

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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