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Stride piano

We start our consideration of solo jazz piano by looking at a technique developed in the early days of jazz called Stride Piano.
We start off by looking at stride piano. Stride piano is kind of post-ragtime, pre-bop. So it’s early eras of the music and the chief proponent of it would be James P Johnson and one of his pupils was Fats Waller - Fats Waller probably the best known stride pianist. But also it was an approach used by the pianistic genius Art Tatum.
Many other pianist played stride from that pre-bop era. The way it works is first of all it’s in time and secondly the left hand is the rhythm section and it consists of playing the root first followed by the chord in the middle of the piano. So you get this sort of sound …
sometimes known as “vamping”.
I call it “um-chick”: um-chick, um-chick, um-chick.
So: um-chick, vamping, stride piano. The tune is played in the right hand over the left hand vamping and the improvisation also is played in the right hand. In some sense, if we use chords that we are familiar with in the middle of the piano and put the roots underneath it then it is a fairly small transition to, at least, understand how stride piano can be employed by us. It is of interest to note that I’ve tried to keep this course simple, in the sense that most of my references are to the pianists Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, although there are many, many other wonderful jazz pianists.
In more recent years Keith Jarrett has recorded at least one album - probably others - where he uses stride piano in a kind of tribute, I suppose, to the early jazz pianists.
One of my favourite albums is called “Live at Montreaux: My Foolish Heart”. Indeed, the title track is one of my favourite all-time tracks - absolutely magical - “My Foolish Heart”. On that album, which is a trio album with Gary Peacock on bass and Jack de Johnette on drums, he plays three old school classics in stride fashion. One of them is called “You Took Advantage Of Me”. Let’s have a look at that.

We start our consideration of solo jazz piano by looking at a technique developed in the early days of jazz called Stride Piano.

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