Friday, December 30, 2011

The Life and Music of McCoy Tyner

In the fall of 2008, I began a PhD program in jazz studies at the University of Pittsburgh. On December 8, 2011,  I was advanced to PhD candidacy. Yeah!!!!!!!!  For those that don't know what this means, I completed all of my course work, wrote and defended my MA Thesis, passed comprehensive exams, and my dissertation proposal was accepted by my dissertation committee. Sounds like a lot huh? Well it was!!!! lol  For those that are interested, here is a summary of my dissertation proposal.  As I acquire the necessary research to write my dissertation, I'll share the interesting information with you.  Here is the summary of my dissertation proposal, and those of you that have any information or resources that can help me complete this project, please share them with me. Thanks!


My dissertation delineates the social and cultural forces that shaped jazz pianist McCoy Tyner’s famed improvisational style.  Additionally, core components of Tyner’s improvisational techniques will be identified and insight into how his right hand works in conjunction with his left hand while improvising will be rendered.  The final part of my dissertation will examine some of Tyner’s improvisations to see if evidence of the social and cultural forces that shaped his musical paradigm can be found in his improvisations.
     McCoy Tyner is a preeminent voice in the history of modern jazz piano performance.  With the advent of modal jazz at the end of the 1950s, Bud Powell’s bebop framework of jazz piano improvisation, utilized and expanded upon by a host of pianists in the 1950s, was no longer viable.  During his tenure with the John Coltrane Quartet between 1960 and 1965, Tyner brilliantly developed an influential approach to jazz piano improvisation that assimilated the developing modal innovations of the 1960s.  As Bud Powell pianistically assimilated the innovative bebop style of the 1940s led by saxophonist Charlie Parker, McCoy Tyner pianistically assimilated the innovative modal style of the 1960s led by John Coltrane.  Tyner’s style of improvisation has influenced a host of extraordinary musicians in the twentieth and twenty-first century. Specifically, his harmonic, melodic and rhythmic contributions to jazz improvisation have been assimilated into the musical vocabulary of notable musicians like Chick Corea, Larry Young, Kenny Kirkland, Geri Allen, Dave Kikoski, Joey Calderazzo and a host of other pianists.
     My dissertation is divided into a historical and analytical section. Historical research will be rendered first and will consist of a biography and discourse delineating the social and cultural stimuli that shaped Tyner’s musical paradigm.  The findings of this data will be presented on micro and macroscopic levels.  The microscopic level will render information on Tyner’s family (great grandparents, grandparents, parents, siblings etc.), economic status, early musical training, musical influences, friends, teachers and mentors.  The macroscopic level will address the sociocultural level possibly rendering discourse on topics like Black Nationalism, the Muslim faith, tensions between Muslims and the black church, black Indian practices passed on to Tyner by John Coltrane and internal civil wars among blacks.  If applicable, my research findings will also state ways in which my historical and sociocultural data did not affect Tyner’s music.
     The historical section of my dissertation demands a lot of primary research.  This will be facilitated by personal interviews with McCoy Tyner and musicians that played with him such as Tootie and Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson, Curtis Fuller and Odean Pope. A trip to Philadelphia, Tyner’s birth place, is also planned to look at birth records and other relevant documents and places that lend insight into the social and cultural environment in which Tyner grew up.  E-mail, Skype and other forms of electronic communication will be utilized to continue discussions with informants in Philadelphia and other relevant areas.  Secondary sources like taped and written interviews of Tyner, along with books, periodicals, newspaper articles and album liner notes will also be consulted to gather the social and cultural data integral in my study.
     The analytical part of my dissertation consists of selecting, transcribing and analyzing several of Tyner’s improvisations.  My purpose in doing this is to unveil some of Tyner’s key improvisational techniques, particularly how Tyner utilizes his left hand in conjunction with his right hand while improvising.  The selected improvisations will also differ from one another to assess how Tyner improvises in different musical environments.  Some of these contrasting musical environments include the blues, modal improvisations, tonal improvisations and open and structured solo forms.  In addition to the contrasting attributes of the improvisations, an attempt will be made to select improvisations that have an interesting connection to the way Tyner thinks as revealed in the first part of my dissertation.  These improvisations will be transcribed and analyzed utilizing Dr. David Baker’s analytical approach as evidenced in his “The Jazz Style of…series” as a starting point, but I will ultimately develop my own analytical system for analyzing Tyner’s improvisational techniques.
     Scholarly studies on Tyner have solely focused on isolated components of his improvisational techniques. My research looks to significantly add too the scant body of knowledge by providing discourse on how Tyner uses his left hand in conjunction with his right hand while improvising. Moreover, I will delineate the social and cultural forces that shaped Tyner’s musical paradigm during his formative years to produce the improvisational style many have and continue to champion.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Double Diminished Harmony

     Several years ago, I transcribed a song entitled "Chance" by Kenny Kirkland.  It is from his self titled album released in 1999. Within his composition, Kirkland utilizes double-diminished harmony amongst other sophisticated harmonies.  The sound of double diminished harmony intruiges me so I decided to share a thorough explaination of the concept in this posting.
     Double diminished harmony isn't soley used by Kenny Kirkland, but is utilized by a host of modern jazz pianists in the 21st century. Piainsts like Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Joey Calderazzo also utilize double diminished harmony extensively in both their compositions and improvisations. Chick Corea's composition "Now He Sings, Now He Sobs" for example, exemplifies the double diminished harmony. Listen to it here.

What is Double Diminished Harmony?
     Double diminished harmony is constructed by playing two fully diminished seventh chords in which the root note of each chord are a major ninth apart from each other. An illustration of this can be seen in example one below. (F diminished 7th chord in the left hand and G diminished 7th chord in the right hand.) The sound of this harmony is thick and dense. Also, an interesting fact about double diminished harmony is that the two fully diminished 7th chords making up the harmony possess all the notes of a diminished scale- starting whole step. (see example 1 and 2)

One Chord - Eight Different Chord Voicings
     The double diminished chord, as explained above, is one chord that can be used to voice eight different chords as follows:  Fdim7, A-flat dim7, Bdim7, Ddim7, G7#9, Bb7#9, Db7#9, E7#9. The root of these chords are derived from each note of the double diminished chord. 
     The fully diminished seventh chords originate from the four notes on the bottom of the double diminished chord.  The corresponding scale that can be played with each fully diminished 7th chord is a diminished scale starting whole step as illustrated in example 3 below.  F fully dim7 with F diminished scale starting whole step and Ab fully dim7 with Ab diminished scale starting whole step.  Following example 3 below is a list of the four fully diminished seventh chords and corresponding scales that can be extracted from the F diminished scale starting whole step.
Example 3

Fdim7                  =     F diminished scale (starting whole step)
A-flat dim7           =    Ab diminished scale (starting whole step)
Bdim7                 =     B diminished scale (starting whole step)
Ddim7                 =     D diminished scale (starting whole step)

     Additionally, added notes derived from the diminished scale may be added to fully diminished 7th chords rendering a more dissonant harmony. Note how the 7th of the F fully diminished seventh chord is replaced by the E in Example 4 below, and the 7th of an Ab fully diminished 7th is replaced by G in example 5 below, which is also derivied from the diminished scale. Melodically, diminished scales starting whole step can be used with these harmonies.
Example 4                              Example 5
Note, for any of the diminished chords above you may add any combination of notes from Gdim7 chord to add more dissonance to the harmony.

     Dominant sharp nine chords are derived from the four notes on top of the double diminished chord. The corresponding scale that works with each dominant 7 #9 chord is a diminished scale starting half step. Example 6 below illustrates this utilizing G7#9 with a G diminished scale starting 1/2 step and example 7 below illustrates Bb7#9 with B-flat diminished scale starting 1/2 step. Following example 6 and 7 below is a list of the four dominant 7 #9 chords and corresponding diminished scales that can be extracted from the F diminished scale starting whole step.

Example 6                               Example 7

G7#9                  =     G diminished scale (starting half step)
Bb7#9                =     Bb diminished scale (starting half step)
Db7#9                =     Db diminished scale (starting half step)
E7#9                  =      E diminished scale (starting half step)

Melodic Shapes Within Diminished Scales
     Within diminished harmony in general, melodic shapes such as major and minor triads and many others can be constructed to stimulate melodic interest. Example 8 below illustrates the use of major triads within diminished harmony. Particularly, B-flat, G and E major triads are played in conjunction with a F fully diminished 7 chord.
                                           Example 8

Example 9 below illustrates the use of minor triads within diminished harmony. Particularly, B-flat, G and E minor triads are played in conjunction with an F fully diminished 7 chord.
Example 9

     Something important about double diminished harmony is that both the fully diminished 7th chords (with added notes if you choose) and dominant sharp nine chords can be used in conjunction with diminished melodic lines. This is very useful when improvising because a pianist for example can vary the comping chords utilized in the left hand.  Example 10 below illustrates the use of various chords found within diminished harmony while playing major and minor triads in the right hand. 

Example 10

Because the diminished scale is a symmetrical scale, a host of melodic patterns can be constructed within the diminished scale beyond major and minor triads. Example 11 below illustrates the use of rootless dominant #9 chords being arpeggiated within the F diminished scale (starting whole step). Beginning on beat 2 of measure one G7#9 is arpeggiated, beginning on beat 1 of measure two E7#9 is arpeggiated, and beginning on beat 4 of measure two Db7#9 is arpeggiated. Note, this is just one example of many melodic patterns that can be created within the diminished scale. Purpose to create your own!

Example 11

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Kenny Kirkland playing "La Belle Dame Sans Regrets" by Sting

Here is a tasteful piano solo from Kenny Kirkland on "La Belle Dame Sans Regrets" from Sting's "Mercury Falling" album released in 1996.  Kenny's Piano solo is from 1:43 to 2:43. Enjoy!

Kenny Kirkland Diminished Lick - Jazz Piano Lesson

Kenny Kirkland was an outstanding jazz pianist who was really coming into his own during the mid 1990s, unfortunately, he died prematurely of congestive heart failure at age 43.

There was a HIP diminished lick that Kenny would often play over altered dominant cords. Below are a couple of videos of Kenny using this hip diminished lick. Following the videos of Kenny below is my video teaching you how to play this lick. Enjoy!

YES OR NO      Lick can be heard here: 4:20-4:22

DONNA LEE         Lick can be heard here: 1:10-1:12

Alton Merrell Teaching Kenny Kirkland's Diminished Lick

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hank Mobley's Chain Reaction: Great McCoy Tyner Solo


Hank Mobley - Tenor Saxophone
Lee Morgan - Trumpet
McCoy Tyner - Piano
Bob - Cranshaw - Bass
Billy Higgins - Drums

Recorded at Van Gelder in 1966


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Oscar Peterson Jazz Exercises

Here are thirteen exercies for the beginning/intermediate jazz pianist. Enjoy! Click Here

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Gospel Piano Lesson - Gain The World - James Hall

Here is a gospel piano lesson teaching you how to play James Hall's "Gain The World."
It is from his first CD release in 1993. Enjoy!

Alton Merrell's Jazz Licks and Tricks Series - Episode #1

Below is the first video of my "Jazz Licks and Tricks Series." This series will present licks, runs, scales, fills, and improvisational techniques useful to the creative improvising musician. A new episode will be presented on a bi-weekly basis, and look for future episodes to render insights into "licks and tricks" used by Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Oscar Peterson and other first rate musicians.

This first episode is a "trick" I came up with while playing one day. Enjoy!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Gospel Piano Lesson - God Great God - Kurt Carr

Here is a gospel piano lesson teaching you how to play Kurt Carr's "God Great God." The song is from his album entitled One Church released in 2005. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Herbie Hancock - New York Minute Performance

A great performance of Herbie Hancock and band playing their take on the song New York Minute. This performance occured in 1997 in Warsaw. Herbie is a master of creating musicial tension and release, and notice how he frequently uses chromaticism in achieving that end. Whew!

Michael Brecker - Sax
John Schofield - Guitar
Dave Holland - Bass
Jack Dejohnette - Drums
Don Alias - Percussion


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Herbie Hancock - Dolphin Dance Performance

Here is Herbie Hancock playing a wonderful rendition of his composition Dolphin Dance. This concert occured sometime during the mid 1980s. A masterful demonstration of how adventerous Herbie is when he plays. He's definately NOT afraid to take risk. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bud Powell Discography

Bud Powell Discography as a Leader

Studio recordings
1947: Bud Powell Trio  (Roost)
1949-50: Bud Powell Piano Solos (Mercury / Clef) aka (½ of) Jazz Giant (Norgran / Verve)
1949-51: The Amazing Bud Powell (Blue Note)
1950: Bud Powell Piano Solos #2 (Mercury / Clef) aka (½ of) Jazz Giant (Norgran / Verve)
1950-51: Bud Powell's Moods (Mercury / Clef) aka The Genius of Bud Powell (Verve)
1953: The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 2 (Blue Note)
1953: Bud Powell Trio, Volume 2 (Roost)
1954-55: Bud Powell's Moods (Norgran / Verve)
1954-55: Jazz Original (Norgran) aka Bud Powell '57 (Norgran / Verve)
1955: The Lonely One... (Verve)
1955: Piano Interpretations by Bud Powell (Norgran / Verve)
1956: Blues in the Closet (Verve)
1956: Strictly Powell (RCA Victor)
1957: Swingin' with Bud (RCA Victor)
1957: Bud! The Amazing Bud Powell (Vol. 3) (Blue Note)
1957-58: Bud Plays Bird (Roulette / Blue Note)
1958: Time Waits: The Amazing Bud Powell (Vol. 4) (Blue Note)
1958: The Scene Changes: The Amazing Bud Powell (Vol. 5) (Blue Note)
1961: A Tribute to Cannonball (Columbia)
1961: A Portrait of Thelonious (Columbia)
1963: Bud Powell in Paris (Reprise)

Live and home recordings
1944-48: Earl Bud Powell, Vol. 1: Early Years of a Genius, 44-48 (Mythic Sound)
1953: Winter Broadcasts 1953 (ESP-Disk)
1953: Spring Broadcasts 1953 (ESP-Disk)
1953: Inner Fires (Elektra)
1953: Summer Broadcasts 1953 (ESP-Disk)
1953: Autumn Broadcasts 1953 (ESP-Disk)
1953-55: Earl Bud Powell, Vol. 2: Burnin' in U.S.A., 53-55 (Mythic Sound)
1957-59: Earl Bud Powell, Vol. 3: Cookin' at Saint-Germain, 57-59 (Mythic Sound)
1959-60: Bud in Paris (Xanadu)
1959-61: Earl Bud Powell, Vol. 5: Groovin' at the Blue Note, 59-61 (Mythic Sound)
1960: The Essen Jazz Festival Concert (Black Lion)
1960-64: Earl Bud Powell, Vol. 11: Gift for the Friends, 60-64 (Mythic Sound)
1961: Pianology (Moon [Italy]) [28]
1961-64: Earl Bud Powell, Vol. 4: Relaxin' at Home, 61-64 (Mythic Sound)
1962: Bud Powell Live in Lausanne 1962 (Stretch Archives)
1962: Bud Powell Live in Geneva (Norma [Japan])
1962: Bud Powell Trio at the Golden Circle, Vols. 1-5 (Steeplechase)
1962: Budism (SteepleChase)
1962: Bouncing with Bud (Sonet)
1962: 'Round About Midnight at the Blue Note (Dreyfus Jazz)
1962-64: Bud Powell at Home - Strictly Confidential (Fontana)
1963: Earl Bud Powell, Vol. 6: Writin' for Duke, 63 (Mythic Sound)
1964: Earl Bud Powell, Vol. 7: Tribute to Thelonious, 64 (Mythic Sound)
1964: Blues for Bouffemont (Fontana)
1964: Hot House (Fontana)
1964: Earl Bud Powell, Vol. 8: Holidays in Edenville, 64 (Mythic Sound)
1964: The Return of Bud Powell (Roulette)
1964: Earl Bud Powell, Vol. 9: Return to Birdland, 64 (Mythic Sound)
1964: Earl Bud Powell, Vol. 10: Award at Birdland, 64 (Mythic Sound)
1964: Ups'n Downs (Mainstream)

Chick Corea Discography

Chick Corea Discography as a Leader
Tones for Joan's Bones (1966)
Now He Sings, Now He Sobs (1968)
Is (1969)
Sundance (1969)
The Song of Singing (1970)
A.R.C. (1971)
Piano Improvisations Vol. 1 (1971)
Piano Improvisations Vol. 2 (1971)
Inner Space (1972)
Crystal Silence (1973, with Gary Burton)
Chick Corea (1975)
The Leprechaun (1976)
My Spanish Heart (1976)
The Mad Hatter (1978)
An Evening With Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea: In Concert (1978)
Secret Agent (1978)
Friends (1978)
Delphi I (1979)
CoreaHancock (1979)
Duet (1979, with Gary Burton)
In Concert, Zürich, October 28, 1979 (1980, with Gary Burton)
Delphi II & III (1980)
Tap Step (1980)
Greatest Hits of 1790 (1980, with Philharmonia Virtuosi of New York, conducted by Richard Kapp. Featured piano soloist on Mozart: "Elvira Madigan" and Beethoven: "Für Elise")
Live in Montreux (1981)
Three Quartets (1981)
Lyric Suite for Sextet (1982, with Gary Burton)
Touchstone (1982)
Trio Music (1982)
Chick Corea Compact Jazz (1987)
Again and Again (1983)
On two pianos (1983, with Nicolas Economou)
The Meeting (Chick Corea and Friedrich Gulda album) (1983, with Friedrich Gulda)
Children's Songs (1984)
Fantasy for Two Pianos with Friedrich Gulda (1984)
Voyage - with Steve Kujala (1984)
Septet (1985)
The Chick Corea Elektric Band (1986, with Elektric Band)
Light Years (1987, with Elektric Band)
Trio Music Live in Europe (1987)
Summer Night - live (1987, with Akoustic Band)
Chick Corea Featuring Lionel Hampton (1988)
Eye of the Beholder (1988, with Elektric Band)
Chick Corea Akoustic Band (1989, with Akoustic Band)
Happy Anniversary, Charlie Brown (1989)
Inside Out (1990, with Elektric Band)
Beneath the Mask (1991, with Elektric Band)
Alive (1991, with Akoustic Band)
Play (1992, with Bobby McFerrin)
Elektric Band II: Paint the World (1993, with Elektric Band)
Seabreeze (1993)
Expressions (1993)
Time Warp (1995)
The Mozart Sessions (1996, with Bobby McFerrin)
Live From Elario's (First Gig) (1996, with Elektric Band)
Live from Blue Note Tokyo (1996, with )
Live From the Country Club (1996)
From Nothing (1996)
Remembering Bud Powell (1997)
Native Sense - The New Duets (1997, with Gary Burton)
Live at the Blue Note (1998, with Origin)
A Week at The Blue Note (1998, with Origin)
Like Minds (1998, Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Roy Haynes, Dave Holland)
Change (1999, with Origin)
corea.concerto (1999, with Origin)
Corea Concerto (1999)
Solo Piano - Originals (2000)
Solo Piano - Standards (2000)
New Trio: Past, Present & Futures (2001)
Selected Recordings (2002)
The Complete "Is" Sessions (2002)
Rendezvous in New York (2003)
To the Stars (2004, with Elektric Band)
Rhumba Flamenco (2005)
The Ultimate Adventure (2006)
The Enchantment (2007, with Béla Fleck)
5trios - 1. Dr. Joe (with Antonio Sanchez, John Patitucci) (2007)
5trios - 2. From Miles (with Eddie Gomez, Jack DeJohnette) (2007)
5trios - 3. Chillin' in Chelan (with Christian McBride, Jeff Ballard) (2007)
5trios - 4. The Boston Three Party (with Eddie Gomez, Airto Moreira) (2007)
5trios - 5. Brooklyn, Paris to Clearwater (with Hadrien Feraud, Richie Barshay) (2007)
The New Crystal Silence (2008, with Gary Burton)
Five Peace Band Live (with John McLaughlin) (2009)
Duet (with Hiromi Uehara) (2009)
Return To Forever Returns - Live at Montreux (2009)
The Definitive Chick Corea (2011)
Forever (2011)

With Circle
Circling In (1970)
Circulus (1970)
Circle 1: Live in Germany Concert (1970)
Paris Concert (1971)
Circle 2: Gathering (1971)
With Return to Forever
Return to Forever (1972)
Light as a Feather (1972)
Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (1973)
Where Have I Known You Before (1974)
No Mystery (1975)
Romantic Warrior (1976)
Musicmagic (1977)
Live (1977)
Return to Forever - Returns (2009)
Return to Forever Returns: Live at Montreux (DVD)(2009)

Herbie Hancock Discography

Herbie Hancock Discography as a Leader

Title                                                     Year                                Label
Takin' Off                                             1962                             Blue Note
My Point of View                                   1963                             Blue Note
Inventions and Dimensions                     1963                             Blue Note
Empyrean Isles                                      1964                             Blue Note
Maiden Voyage                                       1965                           Blue Note
Blow-Up (Soundtrack)                              1966                              MGM
Speak Like a Child                                  1968                           Blue Note
The Prisoner                                           1969                            Blue Note
Fat Albert Rotunda                                 1969                         Warner Bros
Mwandishi                                              1970                         Warner Bros
He Who Lives In Many Places                  1971                            Airborne
Crossings                                                 1972                         Warner Bros
Sextant                                                     1973                           Columbia
Head Hunters                                           1973                           Columbia
Thrust                                                      1974                           Columbia
Death Wish (Soundtrack)                          1974                            Columbia
Dedication                                               1974                            Columbia
Man-Child                                               1975                            Columbia
Flood (Live album)                                  1975                            Columbia
Secrets                                                   1976                           Columbia
VSOP (Live album)                                  1976                          Columbia
Herbie Hancock Trio                                1977                          Columbia
VSOP: The Quintet (Live album)             1977                          Columbia
VSOP: Tempest in the Colosseum            1977                          Columbia
Sunlight                                                     1977                          Columbia
Directstep                                                 1978                         Columbia
An Evening with Herbie Hancock &
Chick Corea: In Concert                            1978                         Columbia
The Piano                                                1979                        Columbia
Feets, Don't Fail Me Now                              1979                        Columbia
VSOP: Live Under the Sky (Live album)       1979                       Columbia
CoreaHancock (Live with Chick Corea)         1979                        Polydor
Monster                                                        1980                      Columbia
Mr. Hands                                                    1980                      Columbia
Herbie Hancock Trio                                     1981                       Columbia
Magic Windows                                             1981                      Columbia
Lite Me Up                                                     1982                      Columbia
Quartet (Live album)                                      1982                       Columbia
Future Shock                                                1983                       Columbia
Sound-System                                                1984                       Columbia
Village Life (with Foday Musa Suso)             1985                       Columbia
Round Midnight (Soundtrack)                        1986                       Columbia
Jazz Africa (Live album with Foday Musa Suso) 1987                  Polygram
Perfect Machine                                           1988                       Columbia
A Tribute to Miles                                        1994                Qwest/Warner Bros
Dis Is Da Drum                                            1994                  Verve/Mercury
The New Standard                                       1995                         Verve
1 + 1 (with Wayne Shorter)                           1997                         Verve
Gershwin's World                                        1998                         Verve
Future2Future                                              2001                    Transparent
Directions in Music: Live at Massey Hall     2002                          Verve
Possibilities                                               2005               Concord/Hear Music
River: The Joni Letters                                2007                          Verve
Then and Now: the Definitive Herbie Hancock      2008                    Verve
The Imagine Project                                     2010                        Hancock

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Alton Merrell - Redemption Waltz - Beiging China

Alton playing an improvised intro to his song "Redemption Waltz" during a concert in Beijing, China. For more information, check out:

Alton Merrell solo in Beiging, China

Alton playing an open solo on "The Looking Glass" written by Dave Morgan. This is during a live concert in Beiging, China.

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He also gives piano, theory, and improvisation lessons both privately and online!

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Goin Up Yonder - Edwin Hawkins - Alton Merrell

Alton Merrell playing his jazz/gospel rendition of the gospel song "Goin Up Yonder" at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in Pittsburgh, PA.

For bookings or lessons:

Invitation - Jazz Standard - Alton Merrell Trio

Alton Merrell and his band performing the jazz standard "Invitation."
Check out for more!

Alton Merrell - Keyboard
James Johnson III - Drums
Lorenze Jefferson - Bass

Gospel Piano Lesson Tutorial - Lord Make Me Over - Tonex

Here is a preview of a contemporary gospel piano lesson teaching you how to play "Lord Make Me Over" by Tonex. The song is taught by Gospel and Jazz Pianist extraordinaire Alton Merrell.

Get an Instructional DVD or Digital Download of this lesson and others like it by visiting Get your lessons today! You will not be disappointed!

Have questions? Email us at

Free Gospel Piano Lesson Tutorial - Joe Pace - Have Your Way

Here is a free piano lesson teaching you how to play Joe Pace's gospel song "Have Your Way." The song is taught by Gospel and Jazz Pianist extraordinaire Alton Merrell.

Get an Instructional DVD or Digital Download of this lesson and others like it by visiting Get your lessons today! You will not be disappointed!

Also, the chord chart seen in the video is available for purchase via instant download. Simply click the following link: and find the Have Your Way demo video. Underneath the video you will see the option to purchase and download the chord chart.

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Gospel Piano Lesson Tutorial - Father Can You Hear Me - Tyler Perry

Here is a preview of a gospel piano lesson teaching you how to play "Father Can You Hear Me" from Tyler Perry's Diary of a Mad Black Woman. The song is taught by Gospel and Jazz Pianist extraordinaire Alton Merrell.

Get an Instructional DVD or Digital Download of this lesson and others like it by visiting Get your lessons today! You will not be disappointed!

The chord chart seen in the video is also available at the link above.

Have questions? Email us at

Gospel Piano Lesson Tutorial - Glory Glory Hallelujah Since I Laid My Burdens Down

Here is a preview of a gospel piano lesson teaching you how to play "Glory Glory Hallelujah Since I Laid My Burdens Down." This is traditional style congragational song sung in many pentecostal and COGIC churches. The song is taught by Gospel and Jazz Pianist extraordinaire Alton Merrell.

Get an Instructional DVD or Digital Download of this lesson and others like it by visiting Get your lessons today! You will not be disappointed!

Have questions? Email us at

Gospel Piano Lesson Tutorial - Vashawn Mitchell - Nobody Greater

Here is a preview of a gospel piano lesson teaching you how to play Vashawn Mitchell's gospel song "Nobody Greater." Get the full tutorial at:

Get an Instructional DVD or Digital Download of this lesson and others like it by visiting Get your lessons today! You will not be disappointed! We offer the best jazz and gospel piano lessons on the internet.

Oscar Petterson Piano Lesson

Oscar Peterson demonstrating the styles of various pianists on the Dick Cavett Show. (Art Tatum, George Shearing, Nat Cole, Earl Garner.) Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Herbie Hancock - Watermelon Man Transcription

This Herbie Hancock transcription is of Watermelon Man from his 1962 debut Blue Note album entitled Takin Off. Enjoy!

Herbie Hancock - New York Minute Transcription

This Herbie Hancock transcription is of New York Minute from his 1995 album release entitled The New Standard.

Click Here For the Transcription

Connecting with Listeners In Performance

Here is an insightful post about musicians connecting with their audience. It was written by Dan, a jazz piano instructor and French translator. His blog is:

Connecting with listeners both many and few...
A huge problem I have is watching live piano recitals where the pianist seems to be in a world of his own. Some might say this is a good thing, because he is 'channeling' his ideas and will be distracted if he keeps thinking about his audience. Whilst this is true in itself, it's not exactly what I am referring to. Having ways to play your best is one thing... having an awareness of your audience's emotions and expectations is another. It makes no sense to play a wonderfully passionate piece of music, techncially brilliant with all the most complicated fingerwork that took you years to learn, only to find that your audience are falling alseep; impressing must be done at the right moment. You need to create a musical rollercoaster for them. Rollercoasters do not begin as utterly vomit-inducing thrills and spills, they begin with an increase in altitude, a sudden drop and increase in speed, a sharp turn, a spin, a bit of straight-line travelling with the much anticipated sudden turn skywards. They usually finish with a somewhat 'gentle' deceleration before the thrill-seekers disembark. Let's apply this to more humanistic performance.

1. Be aware of what kind of emotions your music evokes. If you are improvising, you have more control over how the music sounds; play lots of Major 9 chords for romance and even tear-jerking responses, maybe some 13ths for happy-sounding bouncy Jazz. You could bring in the mM9's for slower movements to really grab their attention (Cry Me a River, for example)

2. Be aware of your repertoire and its components' powers. My Jazz repertoire is quite large, so I have a lot to choose from. Why would I go to a café in the summer where people are sitting outside enjoying themselves, and play a slow, sad version of Moonlight in Vermont, or Somewhere Over the Rainbow? The audience do not want this and will not appreciate the emotional chord changes involved - you will become invisible and pointless for 5-10 minutes whilst you play such music. Why not a nice bouncy version with a little bit of blues scale thrown in with a nice rendition of Ain't Misbehavin'... or A Fooggy Day? It makes much more sense.

3. Be aware of who is watching you and what they represent in musical terms. When I play, I look around (if I can). When I finish or am about to close a song, I eye up as many people as possible. I learn who is paying more attention and begin to build a profile about those people. Are they young couples? Is the girl dressed beautifully, representing a special evening with her partner? Is there a birthday party for a 90 year-old lady? Indeed, I once eyed up a gentlemen with his wife who had clearly just come out for a nice evening meal after sundown (cue lushious jazz chords and Moonlight in Vermont/Somewhere Over the Rainbow!) and who was enjoying me by leaning on his elbow, somewhat mystified by my melodies. Catching his glance whilst not making it too obvious, I got out the more 40's sounding Gershwin sound; block chords, not so much effort on keeping time, rather, playing how the feeling took me, not too many complicated chords; just nice 7's and m7's and not too hard on the blues scales - just the occasional minor 3rd to 3rd grace note. Some more elegantly melodic songs came out which were not too romantic but just pleasant to listen to: Misty, The Nearness of You, April in Paris, etc... middle-of-the-road numbers. He was so thrilled at the end and thanked me greatly - I wonder if he would have done the same if I had bashed out some stronger-sounding numbers or more heavy jazz chord-style songs? Perhaps, but not as much as with my carefully selected numbers.

4. Think about how to introduce and end your song. Going straight into a song is quite unprofessional and very simple. You're a Jazz pianist - or at least a performing pianist with a good repertoire - show your skill! All you need to do to get an idea of introducing a song is listening to absolutely anything that Oscar Peterson plays. Head on over to YT and you'll see what I mean. The same goes for endings. On a more personal note, however, listeners do appreciate a nice introduction. For the more attentive listeners, it keeps them interested, wondering what you will play next. Ending a song must be an extension of what you just played. Granted, some songs require a somewhat sudden ending, but where possible, try to embellish the chords and mix the melody of the song into broken arpeggio chords. It may only be a 6 2 5 1 turn-around, but mixing in a double-time version of the melody as you play such a left-hand broken chord ascending pattern sounds very pleasant.

That will be all for this blog. If you combine these words with my other posts, I see no reason why your playing, for large or small numbers, will not improve drastically. Just don't be one of those piano players who plays because they 'can' impress an audienc and not because they 'want' to impress an audience. It makes you a better musician on many, many levels.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chick Corea and Hiromi Uehara playing Spain

Here is a spectacular performance of Chick Corea and Hiromi Uehara playing Spain live in Tokyo on September 2nd-3rd 2006 at The Tokyo Jazz Festival in Japan. Enjoy!

Elation - Mulgrew Miller - Alton Merrell Jazz Trio

Here is my trio performing Mulgrew Miller's composition entitled "Elation" from his 2002 MaxJazz release entitled "The Sequel."

Alton Merrell - Piano
Jeff Grubbs - Bass
James Johnson III - Drums

Gospel Piano Lesson - Hezekiah Walker - I Need You To Survive

Here is a preview of a gospel piano lesson teaching you how to play "I Need You To Survive" by Hezekiah Walker. The song is taught by Alton Merrell.

Get an Instructional DVD or Digital Download of this lesson and others like it by visiting Get your lessons today! You will not be disappointed!

Gospel Piano Lesson - Donnie McClurkin - I Call You Faithful

Here is a free piano lesson teaching you how to play Donnie McClurkin's gospel song "I Call You Faithful." The song is taught by Alton Merrell.

Get an Instructional DVD or Digital Download of this lesson and others like it by visiting Get your lessons today! You will not be disappointed!

Herbie Hancock Transcription - Freedom Jazz Dance

This transcription is from Miles Davis' Miles Smiles album.

Herbie Hancock transcription of Freedom Jazz Dance.
Click Here For Transcription

Herbie Hancock Transcription - Dolphin Dance

This transcription is from Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" album.

Herbie Hancock transcription of Dolphin Dance.
Click Here To View Transcription

McCoy Tyner Transcription - Blues On The Corner

This transcription is from McCoy Tyner's album "The Real McCoy."

McCoy Tyner transcription of "Blues on the Corner"
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McCoy Tyner Transcription - Pursuance

This transcription is from John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" album.

McCoy Tyner transcription of Pursuance.
Click Here For Transcription

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Herbie Hancock Transcription - Eye of the Hurricane

This transcription is from Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage album.

Herbie Hancock transcription of Eye of the Hurricane.
Click Here For Transcription

Kenny Kirkland Transcription- Donna Lee

This transcription is from an album by Courtney Pine entitled "Within the Realms of our Dreams."

Kenny Kirkland transcription of Donna Lee.
Click Here For Transcription

Kenny Kirkland Transcription - Delfeayo's Dilemma

This transcription is from an album by Wynton Marsalis entitled Black Codes.

Kenny Kirkland Transcription of Delfeayo's Dilemma.

Kenny Kirkland Transcription - Mr. Steepee

This transcription is of Kenny Kirkland Branford Marsalis' Crazy People album.

Mr. Steepee Transcription by Kenny Kirkland 
Click Here For Transcription 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Kenny Garrett Transcription - Scrapple from the Apple

This transcription is from an album by Tom Harrell featuring Kenny Garrett and Kenny Barron entitled "Moon Alley."

Scrapple from the Apple Transcription by Kenny Garrett  

Bill Evans Transcription - I Hear A Rhapsody

This transcription is of Bill Evans from the Montreux II album recorded in 1970.

I Hear A Rhapsody Transcription by Bill Evans  

Herbie Hancock Transcription - All of You

This transcription is from Miles Davis's "The Complete Concert 1964 My Funny Valentine + Four &  More."

All of You Transcription by Herbie Hancock   

McCoy Tyner Transcription - Passion Dance

This transcription is from McCoy Tyner's "The Real McCoy" album.

Passion Dance Transcription by McCoy Tyner   

Chick Corea Transcription - Windows

This transcription is from Chick Corea's "Now He Sings, Now He Sobs" album.

Windows Transcription by Chick Corea   
Click Here For Transcription

Keith Jarrett Transcription - What's This Thing Called Love

This transcription is from Keith Jarrett's "Whisper Not" album.

What's This Thing Called Love Transcription by Keith Jarrett
Intro  Pages 1-4   Pages 5-8  Pages 9 -12  Pages 13-14