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Background/cocktail bar piano repertoire

piano jazz blues background repertoire diploma performance

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#1 jonPiano

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 22:24

Hi All! I could do with some of your collective wisdom

 

I've been asked to play some background piano music at an event where people will be chatting over the music and milling around. It's an informal event with a relaxed dress code.

 

I just need to some help with what to play! They're looking for blues/jazz but couldn't be more specific, I'm assuming some form of cocktail bar piano style. My background is in classical, I am at ABRSM diploma level.

 

I am looking for some recommendations of jazz standards including where I can get some pdfs etc of them which are not completely reliant on improvisation!

 

So far I have

 

Strange Meadow Lark - Dave Brubeck

The Man I Love - Gershwin

Moon River

Don't know why - Jesse Harris

Skylark

 

 

I would welcome any recommendations! Also whether anyone has any experience with this style and manner of performance, do you have any tips? This is all new to me!


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#2 agricola

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 07:07

Depending on where you live your central public library can be a good source of albums of songs from the 20s/30s/40s -- Gershwin, Cole Porter etc.  It can take a while to learn this type of repertoire though so as you will be playing in the background I would make no bones about simplifying textures to suit yourself.  Otherwise you can end up doing a lot of work for one event. 


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#3 JimD

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 07:31

It's useful to work on playing from melody line and chords for this kind of stuff. If you know the tune and have some idea of the the style, it can be pretty effective and you can virtually sight read anything put in front of you within reason. I used to do that a lot many years ago when playing the (electronic) organ - you can get books with hundreds of well-known tunes in them in that format quite cheaply.


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#4 hummingbird

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 10:10


The Man I Love - Gershwin

 

If you're playing Gershwin, do include Embraceable You - my teacher, who is the same level as you, played it recently and he added a few interpretations of his own and it was the most beautiful rendition of the song that I've ever heard.


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#5 Splog

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 12:43

Rhapsody in Blue goes down well. Would The Entertainer be suitable?

 

My accompanist found a lovely book of jazzy piano versions of "jazz standards." Much better than the normal song books which have the melody line plus a bit of accompaniment. I think it was called something like Jazz piano solos. It included At Last and Lover Man. If you can get a good book like this, you can read the notes and not have to make up your own jazz version of a melody line. She's not around at the moment so I can't ask her what it is called.

 

Hoagy Carmichael always goes down well too. Particularly Lazybones, Up the lazy river, Stardust, and someone has mentioned skylark.


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#6 Edwardo

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 13:50

A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square.  Lovely song.


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#7 allypally

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 18:35

As Time Goes By, What a Wonderful World, and of course you must include Fly me to the Moon.  I think there's a good collection of George Gershwin sogs which pops up in the higher grades from time to time - Meet Gershwin at the Piano or something like that.


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#8 jonPiano

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 20:35

Thanks everyone, some great suggestions!

 

I have "Meet Gershwin at the keyboard" and Embraceable you sounds like a great idea!

 

My sight reading is pretty good, I have no problem when everything is written out for me. I have been playing some jazz standards just from the chords and melody line but struggling a bit. Improvisation is also a bit of a challenge, it's pretty new to me.

 

Ideally I would like a book in which I can simply sight read and another with potentially a little more than simply the chords and basic tune! I am gradually getting used to the standards though, it's just a challenge when you're used to just reading straight from the page to the keyboard!


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#9 Baach

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Posted 01 July 2014 - 07:30

Have you googled and looked on YouTube with the term 'cocktail piano' along with 'music', 'sheet music' or similar?
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#10 Splog

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Posted 01 July 2014 - 09:02

Thanks everyone, some great suggestions!

 

I have "Meet Gershwin at the keyboard" and Embraceable you sounds like a great idea!

 

My sight reading is pretty good, I have no problem when everything is written out for me. I have been playing some jazz standards just from the chords and melody line but struggling a bit. Improvisation is also a bit of a challenge, it's pretty new to me.

 

Ideally I would like a book in which I can simply sight read and another with potentially a little more than simply the chords and basic tune! I am gradually getting used to the standards though, it's just a challenge when you're used to just reading straight from the page to the keyboard!

 

Don't bother with books that just have melody line and chords. Books you could try are

 

100 Jazz and Blues greats

The Definitive Broadway Collection or similar

100 of the most beautiful songs or similar

One of the 100 years of popular music - go for a twenties or thirties version

 

Not sure which of these are still in print. You need to look at the song list to find the best ones.

 

These will have accompaniments for singers, so will have full melody plus accompaniment, which is better than just the chords. The only problem is that the accompaniments don't tend to be interesting in their own right.

 

If you want more interesting piano, then you need to get a solo jazz/blues piano book.

 

If you want something that is jazzy but not necessarily standards which people will recognise then how about something by Christopher Norton or similar. May be too easy for you though.


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#11 zizi

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 08:39

I am also classically trained, so when I asked to do "background" music, I often wonder what to do...   I can't suggest anything jazzy / bluesy, but some light stuff like Einauldi usually go down well, especially the ones the customers recognise - Le Onde, Gioni etc, etc. " River flows in you " seems to be a big hit...  Some light classical pieces like Debussy also good...

 

Enjoy the occasion!


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#12 Latin pianist

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 09:42

I have 3 volumes of All the tunes you've ever wanted to play. The second 2 particularly have film songs, jazz, light classics and they are easy to sight read but sound good harmonies too.
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#13 Latin pianist

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 10:08

Gosh, well I can sight read them easily. My current grade 8 student could too. Interestingly, I bought them for my son who did a little piano reluctantly with me when young and had a piano for his 30th birthday, and he hashed his way through them at first and then each time he played them they became better. I was really referring to the original poster who says he is a good sight reader. Most church organists or pianists could play them because their sight reading is usually good. A grade 5 pianist would probably not sight read them easily, but would soon learn most of the pieces. The books I've got are 25cmx18cm size and there's a red, blue and green one. I bought them at the Works for 5.99 each and have used them a lot.
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#14 Dreamaurora

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 11:07

 

I have 3 volumes of All the tunes you've ever wanted to play. The second 2 particularly have film songs, jazz, light classics and they are easy to sight read but sound good harmonies too.

 
I am always on the lookout for recommendations of good anthologies of popular music and jazzy arrangements but I had not heard of these.  When you say "easy to sight read"  what level do you mean?  How good a pianist would you need to be, in your estimation, to manage them confidently?  Grade 5, Grade 8, First diploma, Licentiate? [I know grades can be only a rough guide, but we have none better].

 

 

http://www.amazon.co... piano library

 

I have a few volumes from this excellent series. Difficulty of the creative arrangements are around grade 7-8. The books also contain the original arrangements of the songs featured and they are around grade 5-6 level. You can do a search on Itunes. Susanne Kessel recorded the arrangement of the Over The Rainbow that is found in this series so you can have a better idea.

 

Billy Mayerl also composed a lot of cocktail style pieces that are suitable for grade 8 and beyond.

 

For the masochistic ones, there are always Earl Wild's etudes based on Gershwin's songs.


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#15 Latin pianist

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 11:31

Those books look good, but maybe harder to sightread?
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