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5 great piano tracks to get your year off with a bang!

   One of the very best ways to improve your playing is LISTENING to great jazz as much as you can!  Jazz, particularly, is like getting a nice, soulful massage for your ears;  I’d bet that if they hooked us up to some machine to measure what happens when we listen to good jazz all the indicators would start flashing GREEN.  Tower of Power has that great tune “Soul Vaccination”, and if we ever needed such a vaccination, the time is definitely NOW!  

 

So, to help fill your phone/pod/watch/cassette deck/8-track with some great music, here are 5 suggestions for some tracks of great piano music, all different, but all great!  And the albums from which these tunes are derived are well worth owning in their entirety as well!

 

  1. “On A Clear Day”:  Red Garland, from the album “Feelin’ Red”, which seems now to be retitled “Seein’ Red”, go figure!  I actually won this record from our little local radio station in Coos Bay, Oregon, when I was a kid.  And I wore it out.  One of my very favorite rhythm sections, Al Foster and Sam Jones on drums and bass, and Red swinging out over the top of it in his trademark style!
  2. “U Dance”:  Keith Jarrett Trio, from the album “Tribute”.  Keith at maximum Gospel;  for being about the most sophisticated musician in the history of the human race, Keith also has an incredible talent for writing a very catchy, hook-laden, incredibly melodic tune.  And LOL this is kind of a “trick recommendation”;  this is a live disc, and these guys can’t play anything under iTunes’ maximum length, so you’re gonna have to buy the whole CD!  Which is great, because you will also get their rendition of “All The Things You Are”, with Keith’s stunning introduction.  The first time I heard this I was driving, and I had to pull over and play the intro about 10 times more in a row.  Dig the audience freak-out after the intro!
  3. “In My Solitude”:  McCoy Tyner, from the album “McCoy Plays Duke”.  People often think of McCoy Tyner’s incredible power when they think of him, but as this track shows he was also an incredibly swinging pianist with a great gentle touch in addition to the thunder.  Insanely great rhythm section here, too, Elvin Jones playing brushes the way only Elvin can, and Jimmy Garrison, McCoy and Elvin’s bandmate with John Coltrane, playing bass.  A guaranteed smile!  Buy the album and you also get “Mr. Gentle and Mr. Cool”, a slower swinger with more of McCoy’s great breadth on display.
  4. “Einbahnstrasse”:  A couple years back when I was working on Herbie Hancock’s record “The Imagine Project” we were sitting in his studio and I asked him about this track and he said he had no memory of it, which is a little weird because you’d think you would remember doing a straight-ahead jazz date with Billy Cobham (from the Mahavishnu Orchestra, the great loud “fusion” band) on drums.  But WOW what a swinging track, great Ron Carter on bass (it was Ron’s date) and Herbie at his utter unbound best.  The way they pull the time apart and get things kind of diffuse, then snap it back into place is INCREDIBLY SATISFYING.  And dig Herbie’s first chorus, the way he plays with his opening motif, and the way Ron comes in under it!
  5. “Liza”:  Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, from the album “An Evening With Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea”.  Yee-ouch is this an E Ticket Ride!  These two plumb the very outmost reaches of what’s possible on what starts out as almost a little tin pan alley tune (it was written by George Gershwin), but it’s so incredibly joyful and full of fun it’s a guaranteed smile.  You can imagine how much they were cracking each other up, or you can see it for yourself HERE.  And be shocked at how completely different they played it from night to night on this tour (check out Herbie at 1:41 for one Herbie lick we can all play!).  Two of the all-time masters at the peak of their powers, egging each other on.  Another one where the whole disc is a huge laugh!

 

Fill up those phones with this incredible music and you’ll find it seeping into your own playing!  

 

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