The Real Book for jazz pianists

Well… if I can do it, you can do it too.

It would seem overwhelming if someone came up to me and asked me to make 94 videos of jazz standards and post them on YouTube. But I’ve learned that if you start with one tune, and them go to another, and another, then before you know it you’ve reached number 94!

As most of you know, I’m doing this with my Journey Through The Real Book and it’s true that you can do something like this too. The secret is to do it at your own level, which is what I myself am doing.

When I sat down to play the uptempo burner “Cherokee” (#61), I would have loved to break into a lightning fast stride pattern for a chorus or two, a la Art Tatum. But that ain’t gonna happen, at least in this lifetime! So I was forced to find my own way of doing it, and it came out very nicely.

When I sat down to play Ornette Coleman’s “Chippee” (#64), I was confronted with the challenge that we all face when playing Ornette tunes on piano: “How in the world do we play an Ornette Coleman tune on piano!!!!???” After all, here was a musician who created his unique sound by eliminating the piano from his ensembles! But this forced me to find a way, and I grew as a musician by going through the experience.

Again, the key is to play the tunes at your own level. Yes, learn new things and try new approaches. But be sure to do it at a level that you can actually attain. If all you can do right now is to play the melody and chords, then this is great! Embrace that and have a lot of fun doing it. By playing, say, 10 tunes at this level and fully embracing the experience, you’ll be preparing yourself in a big way for the next step, which may be to begin improvising on the chord progressions.

Another thing I’m discovering about going through the book in alphabetical order, is that each turn of the page brings something fresh and exciting. Whether it’s a tune I’ve always avoided before because it’s “weird” like “Doin’ The Pig (#94), or a tune I’ve loved for years such as John Lewis’ “Django” (#93), this project is keeping me excited about jazz piano and my development as a musician.

I highly encourage you to dive into either the Real Book or whatever collection of music interests you. The journey you’ll be embarking upon will lead you to places you’ve never before imagined!

For inspiration, here’s my performance of “Django,” which is a very special composition combining classical influences and jazz:

Django: Journey Through The Real Book #93

Or, you may want to listen to what may be the weirdest tune in the Real Book, Steve Swallow’s
“Doin’ The Pig.” (Note: learning your ii/V/I’s will not help you play this tune!)

Doin’ The Pig: Journey Through The Real Book #94

Wherever you’re at in your own musical development, enjoy the journey and “let the music flow!


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