I am a terrible jazz pianist. It is true, I’m the second to admit it. The first would be my jazz piano teacher from college. Well, maybe him, then the jazz ensemble director – well, and the other students in the rhythm section. The more I think of it, pretty much everyone who hears my ham-fisted chord voicings says “ouch.”
Help is at hand, in the form of the Wynton Marsalis tunes in the Jazz Improvisation section of SmartMusic. For an example, select Wynton Marsalis Volume IV and specify “In the Heat of Battle.” From the Instrument drop down select “Piano Transcription,” and voilà! An actual transcription from Marsalis’ rhythm section appears on-screen – making it easy for me to pick up professional voicings and comping ideas – all at my own speed.
This piece also features an “Instrumentation” button at the top, which controls what instruments will play back. This allows me to alternate between playing back ONLY the piano part (as I’m learning a section), and playing everything BUT the piano when I want to play along with a world-class drummer and bassist. Better yet, you can even change those settings as SmartMusic is playing!
These pieces offer bass and drum transcriptions as well. Leading a jazz band? Be sure to share these ideas with ALL members of your rhythm section (even the guitar players will enjoy playing along).