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Hi Fellow Pianists! 
I want to announce my new, improved web site. Maybe you've already seen it, but if you haven't, please come take a look.  (Click here)
You will see that I have combined all three of my jazz instructional sites--Jazzypiano, Gateway to Jazz Guitar and Jazzyukulele-- into one, new central web location. www.glenrosejazz.com.

During my 45-year career as a pianist, I also played jazz guitar and ukulele on my gigs, so it was only natural for me to teach jazz techniques for those instruments as well. Piano has always been my first love, but jazz guitar was always a close second. The little ukulele, which provided whimsy and charm to my theater shows, worked its way into my heart as well.

By the way, I was delighted to see that Guitar Player Magazine recently ran a nice article about my popular jazz guitar book. . .   
Play Jazz Guitar with Just Six-Chords(Click here.)  

 
 

Vintage photo! Me playing my cocktail piano gig in Oslo Norway, 1988

What is cocktail piano music?
The term “cocktail piano music” conjures up a lot of images that are generally associated with high society from that bygone era of "class," the period from the 1920s through the early 1950s. One envisions an elegant social setting in a fine restaurant or hotel bar or at a private party with a formally attired gentleman or lady, seated at an elegant grand piano, softly playing popular Broadway and jazz standards from that era. The music was blended into the backdrop, enhancing the ambience of the environment but never disturbing conversation or dining.
 
Sadly, that era is gone (along with the grand pianos that were everywhere in clubs and restaurants), but nevertheless cocktail piano still remains relevant.  Cocktail piano is really a style of playing, a technique rather than a compilation of music from that bygone era. Cocktail piano music is simply tasteful music, played in a pleasant and unobtrusive manor while people are relaxing and making conversation in a social setting anywhere. This could be in a hotel lobby, restaurant, corner bar, cocktail lounge, private party, wedding, company event or at any gathering of people.  
 
Though Broadway classics and jazz standards are generally expected to be a part of a cocktail pianist's repertoire, in these modern times pianists can add various types of music to their cocktail gigs. If you are playing for baby boomers, you can create soft, easy going arrangements of Beatle tunes, Elvis or Elton John and such. If your audience is even younger you can play current pop tunes as well. Just remember to keep it quiet and in and in the background. Even if it’s an exciting tune, you'll need to find a way to present it in an easy-going manner.
 
For this type of gig, it is important to remember that you're not there to put on a show and wow people. Your role is to subtly add to the ambience with your playing in an unobtrusive way so that the guests can enjoy their conversations and drinks without having the music overpower them. When I am playing a cocktail job, I generally keep my foot on the soft pedal the entire time (the foot pedal on the far left) and  I keep my eye on the guests, from time to time, to make sure that I am not forcing them to talk loudly so they can be heard over my piano. If I see people cupping their ears and straining to hear conversation, then I know I am playing too loud. 
 
No matter what age group you are playing for, it’s always a good idea to have some of the popular old standards in your repertoire, such as Over the Rainbow, As Time Goes By, The Girl From Ipanema, Georgia on My Mind, etc. These are the tunes that are timeless and are the most requested. All generations seem to know them. People expect a pianist to know them so, it’s a good idea to have them at your command. And oh yes, make sure you know how to play Happy Birthday. You are sure to get a request for that one and it will help to make you a hit at the gathering.
 
Example of playing cocktail style with block chords
Block chord playing
Here are some new tracks I just put up on Youtube. In the song,"I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face," you will see and hear that I am using block chords almost exclusively. (See it on YouTube here.) To play with this technique, you have to be very agile with your five basic jazz chords in all inversions. (See them here.) You play a four-note chord in your right hand and add a single note with your left. This doubles the melody. You end up with the melody played in octaves and the chord in the middle. George Shearing, one of the great jazz icons of jazz piano and one of my inspirations, often gets credit for popularizing block chords that are played in this manner. (Click here to hear Shearing play block chords!)


"I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixHa1OD004s&feature=youtu.be
 Web site. Most of the fundamentals you need to play cocktail music are in these:
 
 1. Five Jazz Chord Types – The basic stuff we all need for understanding jazz theory. 

 2. Rootless Jazz Chords – Often called the Bill Evans chord voicings. Very hip, jazzy and versatile

3. Professional Piano Techniques – Basic left-hand technique, open voicings, melody support, etc for cocktail playing

4. Cocktail & Runs and Arpeggios – Creating smooth piano runs and effects with one and two hands

5. Cocktail Piano Arrangements – Demonstrations using elements from all of the videos above
 
6. Understanding the 2-5-1 jazz progression – The most important three-chord combination to know for cocktail music 
 
Copyright © 2017 Jazzy Piano, All rights reserved. 
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Jazzy Piano
2006 HWY 101
Florence, Oregon  97439
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