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Rootless Pt. 1

I have been led astray. Well this may be a bit of an overreaction but as of today I am feeling my skill set within jazz piano (if that’s what I’m calling) is not as applicable to the stage of pianist I am set to soon enter as it could have been. 

The large majority of my jazz education, especially as a piano player, has been centered around and for the purpose of playing in groups. I spend nearly all my time performing in a large ensemble for school, other than that I sometimes play with a smaller group of 4-7. There my function in the band differs from what it is in a school jazz band as naturally in a smaller group any role bears more responsibility, but overall the role remains the same. My piano and jazz education reflects that function.  Any of my solo piano concerts where I’ve performed a jazz song have been learned mainly from transcription, but regularly I’m playing classical for these recitals. 

Let me define what this role is and how my education for playing in these types of groups has prepared me better for some styles of jazz piano better than others. My learning is largely characterized by a more rootless style, which just means that I play with a bass player. When you have a bass player playing bass notes, many of which end up being the roots of each chord in the changes, it becomes redundant or rather, unnecessary, for the piano player to be involving the root in their voicings. So when you get down to it, what it is really that the piano player really does? In a larger ensemble the piano is part of what is called the rhythm section. The rhythm section is comprised of drums, bass, comping instruments and any other percussion instruments. Their job is to provide structure, both rhythmic and harmonic. They are keeping the time and creating the feel, along with laying down the harmonic context so that the melody can be made sense of.


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