Skeletal Comping

Confession time. I actually enjoy comping more than soloing. It’s like a fascinating, constantly shifting, multi-dimensional puzzle to solve, with no limit to the possible solutions but your own imagination. Co-operating is as important as leading. Playing not just the piano, but playing the music.

Here’s something I find interesting. Listen to a recording of a really good jazz comper. Quite often you’ll find that some, or even most of the chords aren’t actually played at all. They often hit, hang or hold off completely, and leave loads of space. For instance, there are great Rhythm and Giant Steps recordings out there where you frequently won’t hear more than occasional chording from the pianist. (And it isn’t because they can’t make the tempo.)

Some people tend to play every single chord change on a chart, on the button, all the time, chorus after chorus, solo after solo. Why?

Well, maybe it’s to keep their place. Maybe it’s to pin things down and help others keep their place (can be necessary). Maybe it’s fear that people will think they’re not very good or they can’t play the changes, or a sense that they’ve been hired, so they’ve got to play all the time. Maybe it’s boyish (or girlish) enthusiasm… Read more ›

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Gareth Lochrane with JLT Review

Thanks to Sammy Stein for writing this review/interview.

Welcome to the jazz world's equivalent of The Prancing Pony.

Welcome to the jazz world’s equivalent of The Prancing Pony. Half price for hobbits, no ringwraiths allowed.

On a corner of a main road in the busy, noisy borough of Kennington, London, sits an unassuming building, easy to walk past but turn in and you find yourself in the place of wonder and magic that is Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec. Downstairs is a bistro restaurant filled with intriguing little nooks and crannies, creaky wooden floors and chic art work, already offering a pleasant refuge from the traffic outside. The Loft, which is the jazz club, is up some stairs, up more stairs and through a curtain, emphasising the sense of finding some inner world of magic where time has paused.

To get into the jazz club you pay a small fee (a fiver on the night in question) in exchange for a chunky, round wooden token which can be used to buy drinks in the jazz room. Up the stairs, you enter The Loft, an intimate room with a barman (I learned he is called Chris) with a wide smile and welcoming manner. Offering your token as payment for drinks it feels more and more as if you have chanced upon some wonderful part of Middle Earth where the coinage is wooden and everyone is friendly. However, in The Loft the prevailing currency is music…

The full piece is up at

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Little Niles

Somebody recently sent me this video clip of the band doing a Randy Weston number last year. It’s a great tune and deserves to be played more often.

Tony Kofi (as), Jason Lyon (p), Henry Gilbert (b), Joel Prime (d)

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With One Foot on the Platform…

Well, you’ve got to do something when you’re waiting for a train, right? The piece, incidentally, is Liszt’s El Contrabandista, which makes the Mephisto Waltz look like Für Elise

Bот блестящee представление.

Sometimes you get amazing surprises on street pianos (and they don’t always come from passing concert pianists).

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Posted in e) Rants & Ramblings, g) Classically Inclined


A very good YouTube video resource here. Rick Beato is an Atlanta-based jazz, classical and rock musician turned engineer and producer. He’s just as much at home talking about Allan Holdsworth or Pearl Jam as Stravinsky or Hans Zimmer. He knows his AKG C414 from his Mozart K466.

He is currently producing a video series that comprehensively, generously, vigorously and engagingly marches through just about everything you can think of in music – harmony, jazz stuff, rock stuff, film composition, orchestration, ear training, recording techniques…

Well worth a subscription to his channel. He knows of what he speaks. There’s a Beato Book for sale too.

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Posted in a) Soloing Scales & Modes, b) Harmony & Comping, c) Musicianship

How to Rehearse

No, that's not what I meant by

No, that’s not what I meant by “that bit at I”….

January is a good time for nagging, I find. And often restating the bleeding obvious, even to yourself.

The main point about rehearsals is that they should be efficient use of everyone’s time.


A good rehearsal involves everyone looking at the charts you’ve brought along, maybe asking a few questions, then running it through – just the head, in and out, some quick bits of collaborative on-the-fly arrangement, any planned interludes, that sort of thing. Then another short discussion about the problematic points and focusing on them relentlessly with laser precision. Finally, decisions might be made about solo order and sundry details. That’s it – okay, next tune. Next, next, next…

There’s nothing wrong with anybody asking: “can we just run it one more time from four before the bridge, for my benefit?” Nobody’s ever going to object to that.

Another point here, courtesy of my bassist friend Matt: stand your ground. Someone will occasionally say something like “hey I’m not sure about that bit… how about…?” Sometimes this can be a brilliant suggestion that really improves the tune. But a suggestion is often an excuse – they can’t really play what you’ve brought and want things easier. Of course, if you stick to your guns and it becomes clear the tune just isn’t going to go well, it might be best to compromise or just shelve the tune.

If you’ve got some really unusual stuff, it’s never a bad idea to send the parts round in advance. They don’t always get looked at, of course… Read more ›

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Jazz London Live

jllscreengrabIf you’re ever in London or thereabouts and feel like a bit of jazz, please check out JazzLondonLive for extensive listings, gig and venue co-ordinates and musician biogs. This site was launched last year to take on the baton from Mary Greig’s venerable bible, Jazz in London (40-odd years in print and never missed a month). JLL is still growing, so do check it out and support it.

Apparently there’s an app version too (if unlike me, you have a 21st Century brain).

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Books for Sale
...appetising young books for sale...
Wednesday Gig/Jam

We play every Wednesday night, 9 to 12.30, at Toulouse Lautrec in Kennington, South London. It starts as a gig then becomes a jam. We welcome and accommodate all, but please do have a squizz at Thoughts from the Piano Chair of a Jam Session.
Illustration by Sue Harding

February guest soloists
1 Ant Law gtr
8 Tom White tbn
15 Gareth Lockrane flt
22 Steve Fishwick tpt

March guest soloists
1 Duncan Eagles tenor sax
8 Ed Jones tenor sax
15 Tony Kofi alto sax
22 Quentin Collins tpt
29 Dan Oates violin

More info on guests here

For London-wide jazz llistings see