The relaxed joy of playing slow stride jazz piano

When we hear the term “stride piano,” we often this of the fast, lively early jazz. Perhaps something like James P. Johnson’s “Carolina Shout.” Here’s the composer himself at the keyboard, from a recording he made in 1921.

As exciting as this type of playing is, there’s another side to the stride style. Slow stride.

Slow stride uses the same basic technique, with the pianist’s left hand “striding” back and forth between bass notes and chords, but the tempo is slower. The feeling is more relaxed. The music can even be gentle and reflective.

James P. Johnson enjoyed playing this way too. He he is again, in 1943, playing another of his famous pieces, “Blueberry Rhyme.” (Great title!)

A beautiful feeling, right?

Playing slow stride is fun, relaxing, and produces beautiful renditions of many standard jazz ballads and medium-slow tunes. You can use it to play songs like “Over The Rainbow,” “Misty,” and “In A Sentimental Mood,” among many others. Pianists such as Art Tatum, Fats Waller, and Billy Taylor were all masters of this style, and it was used by both professional and amateurs on a daily basis for decades.

Here’s another example of the relaxing and beautiful style of slow stride piano. Try it yourself.

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