Using Gil Evans-inspired reharmonization on “My Ship”

Hey Improvisers,

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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