Using a technique from Stravinsky on J.J. Johnson’s “Lament”

Hey Improvisers,

After I make each of my Journey Through The Real Book videos, I enjoy watching them and writing all the annotations for the timestamps. Since I don’t usually plan the musical arrangements, it’s fun to go back and see what I actually played!

Today, I was a little surprised to hear that I played something on the jazz ballad “Lament,” that reminded me of Stravinsky. Well… yes and no. I was surprised because I made the video a few days ago and didn’t recall playing anything Stravinsky-like on it. But at the same time I wasn’t really surprised, because I’ve loved Stravinsky’s music since discovering The Rite Of Spring as a teenage and some of his style has influenced my own musical thinking in ways that I’m probably not fully aware of.

So there it was. Right in the middle of a tender jazz ballad. Modal harmony featuring the intervals of a 7th. Right out of the Stravinsky playbook. And it fit right in with the overall musical feeling I was going for when playing “Lament.”

Let’s think about this for a moment. My jazz piano playing wouldn’t be what it is today if I hadn’t listened to the music of a Russian classical composer.

That’s certainly not something we learn in most jazz method books!

It’s the same with many of our favorite musicians, is all musical genres:

The Beatles wouldn’t have written Yellow Submarine if they didn’t enjoy European folk dance music. (Yes, it’s an Italian tarantella.)

Pete Townsend of The Who wouldn’t have composed Pinball Wizard if he wasn’t a huge fan of Spanish flamenco music. (Check out the fast strumming.)

The list goes on and on…

The big takeaway here is to listen to as wide a variety of music as possible, because you never know what your next favorite style of music will be. And yes, your own music will benefit in wondrous and unexpected ways too.

Here’s my version of “Lament,” with a touch of Stravinsky:

Lament: Journey Through The Real Book #205

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


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