So, what’s important about the jazz waltz?
Well, there are several reasons why learning jazz waltzes are crucial for your musical development. Whether you play the piano, the trumpet, the guitar, or drum set, you are going to want to study the jazz waltz for the following reasons—
- Jazz music is traditionally played in 4/4 time with four beats per measure. A jazz waltz is written in 3/4 time and has three beats per measure. 3/4 time is a different rhythmic landscape than most other forms of American music. Learning how to navigate odd meter as an improviser or while comping is a fundamental aspect of playing jazz.
- Jazz players need to learn lots of jazz standards. It’s incredibly important to know the standard repertoire so that you can fully understand the jazz language and communicate effectively with other jazz musicians, and many of the greatest examples of jazz music are waltzes.
- Jazz music covers a fairly wide range of sub-genres, such as dixie, bebop, and other cultural styles, like Bossa Nova. To understand the art form, play jazz music proficiently, and connect with jazz musicians all over the world, you are going to need to know the waltz.
Is playing in odd time a challenge for you? Do you struggle to feel 3/4 time and lose track of the beat because you are too used to playing in common time? If you want to feel confident playing jazz in odd meters but don’t know where to start, then you need to check out the Learn Jazz Standards Inner Circle. You’ll get—
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Table of Contents
9 Jazz Waltzes Jazz Musicians Need To Know—
If you’re going through your jazz repertoire and realizing you don’t know any waltzes, then this list is a perfect place to get started. This list isn’t in any particular order and is by no means complete. Rather, it contains a variety of different takes on the jazz waltz.
There are many that these to learn, but for the sake of not leaving you overwhelmed, here are 9 that I suggest. You can click on any of the titles to learn more, get chord charts, play-alongs, and listen to recordings.
1. Alice in Wonderland
Alice In Wonderland is a jazz waltz written by Sammy Fain for the 1951 Disney classic Alice In Wonderland. Piano player Bill Evans arguably brought this song to popularity in the jazz world with his incredible recording on the 1961 Sunday at the Village Vanguard. Evans’ recording is often cited as an example of the “modal jazz” style that was popularized in the 1960s.
2. Jitterbug Waltz
This is easily one of my favorite jazz waltzes. Jitterbug Waltz was written by pianist Fats Waller in 1942. The original version was recorded with a Hammond B3, which would later become a popular instrument in jazz. Coming right out of the classic swing era, this waltz contains a lively and infectious swing rhythm, with Waller’s piano playing and vocals at the forefront.
Bluesette was written by harmonicist Toots Thielemans. From the first beat, it became an international hit in the 1960s and was originally recorded with him whistling the melody along with a guitar. This waltz represents a clear departure from the more structured arrangements of the swing era. This waltz is also a prime example of the creativity and experimentation of the post-bop era, with its unique fusion of jazz and folk music elements.
This is definitely an important one to know. Footprints is a tune written by the great saxophonist Wayne Shorter. It first appeared on his 1966 record Adams Apple. The waltz features a distinctive melody played over a variation of the minor blues, giving it a hypnotic and trance-like quality.
5. All Blues
Another very common jazz waltz. All Blues was written by Miles Davis for his 1959 best-selling record, Kind Of Blue. It is a 12-bar blues with a V7 to bVI7 to V7 in bars 9 and 10, a signature of this tune. “All Blues” is a prime example of the creativity and experimentation of the post-bop era, with its unique blend of modal harmony and heavy emphasis on the blues.
6. Up Jumped Spring
Up Jumped Spring is a tune written by the great trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. I find this jazz waltz to be a lot of fun to play! This waltz is a great example of the “hard bop” style that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, which was characterized by a combination of bebop and blues influences and a greater emphasis on improvisation.
7. Ugly Beauty
This may not be the easiest of songs, nor the most common, but this is a good waltz to work on. Ugly Beauty was written by the great innovative pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. It was recorded on his 1968 record Underground and is the only waltz he ever wrote. This waltz contains all of Monk’s unique, idiosyncratic, and unconventional melodies, harmonies, and rhythms.
8. Someday My Prince Will Come
This waltz seems to be a favorite among jazz players. Someday My Prince Will Come is a tune written by Frank Churchill and lyrics by Frank Morey for Walt Disney’s 1937 animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Someday My Prince Will Come is a prime example of the crossover between jazz and popular music through the creative interpretations of musicians like Miles Davis.
9. West Coast Blues
West Coast Blues was written by the genius of jazz guitar, Wes Montgomery. This waltz first appeared on Wes’ 1960 album, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, and is a great example of Wes Mongomery’s unique and influential style
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