I vividly remember the first time I saw a pianist reharmonize a jazz standard. It was in 1983 and I was attending a 2-week jazz workshop with the great jazz pianist Billy Taylor. During our first class, Billy sat down at the piano and changed the chords to a jazz ballad.
While I don’t remember which tune it was, I do remember the feeling of being amazed by this. Taylor was finding exciting new sounds in a tune that I had played countless times. I wanted to learn how to do that myself!
Later, I discovered another master of reharmonization: Gil Evans.
Evans is perhaps best-known for his work with Miles Davis, and his arrangement of Kurt Weill’s song “My Ship,” from the album Miles Ahead, is a true masterpiece.
Here’s a video in which David Bennett Thomas analyzes Gil’s harmonization of “My Ship.”
Jazz Theory with Gil Evans: “My Ship”
And here’s how we pianists can apply these reharmonization techniques to the piano:
My Ship: Journey Through The Real Book #250
I hope this whets your musical appetite to learn more about how to use reharmonization to express yourself at the piano.
Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”
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