Author Archives: tgcleary

Root systems, part 3: Give it up for the root (position pattern)s! – Melodic patterns based on root position voicings

The name of this post is a variation on the phrase, ‘Give it up for The Roots!’, that Jimmy Fallon often uses to introduce his house band on his late night show. (I made an appearance on the show in … Continue reading

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Root systems, part 2 / outlining the ii-V and ii-V-I progressions with 7-up scales

Once you have become familiar with playing ii-V-I progressions in all keys in at least one voicing using your list of six tunes from the first post in this series, a possible next step is to practice the 7th scale … Continue reading

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Pairings, part three – Hand-some conversation: Two-handed melodic conversations by J.S. Bach and Oscar Peterson

This is the third post in the ‘pairings’ series. The two previous posts, on left hand walking bass with right hand melodic lines and left hand walking bass with right hand comping, each examine a particular technical challenge by comparing … Continue reading

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Root systems, part 1 / Take three at a time: an approach to learning major scales and ii-V-I progressions in all keys along with tunes from The Real Book (Volume I, sixth edition)

This post is in response to questions often asked by my students.  ‘What tunes should I practice during my summer break from lessons?’, they ask. Or: ‘How can I get better at learning tunes from a fake book chart (i.e., … Continue reading

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Pairings, part two: left hand walking bass with right hand chordal comping by Kenny Barron, John Coates Jr. and G.F. Handel (or, Spring Comping Trip)

The piano, more than any other instrument, has the capacity to evoke the sound of a group of players.  In the Dave McKenna version of ‘C Jam Blues’ that I transcribed in the last post, it could be argued that … Continue reading

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Pairings, part one: left-hand walking bass and right hand lines in Dave McKenna, Bach and Handel

The concept of food pairings is one that I’ve learned a great deal about from my wife, Amber deLaurentis, a great pianist, vocalist and songwriter who happens to be an amazing artist in the kitchen as well. In food pairing, … Continue reading

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The State of The Blues, Part One: Helen Sung’s solo on C Jam Blues

This is the first in a series of posts featuring transcriptions I’ve done of contemporary jazz pianists soloing on the blues progression.  Sometimes in the work of contemporary players such as Fred Hersch, Brad Mehldau and Ethan Iverson (who studied with … Continue reading

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‘You Need To Lift It’: A Visit From Henry Butler

Four of my piano students recently played in a workshop with the great Henry Butler, one of the prime exponents of the New Orleans piano style. (Many thanks Steve MacQueen and Madeline Bell from the Flynn as well as Dr. … Continue reading

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Summer Comping Trip: a play-by-play analysis of two great jazz soloist-accompanist combinations

When I studied jazz performance and composition at Hampshire College, one of my most important experiences in ensemble playing was a class I took at the University of Massachusetts  at Amherst (through the Five College system) with Professor Archie Shepp … Continue reading

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‘Ornithology’: the memory palace of two bebop masterminds

In a recent news story, publishers who represent songwriters Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty contacted publishers for singer/songwriter Sam Smith about  a four-bar similarity between the melody and chord progression of Lynne and Petty’s 1989 hit song ‘Won’t Back Down’ … Continue reading

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