Playing the melody of Impressions

We have a bit of a quandary. We recently made a big deal about learning melodies to tunes by listening to them rather than just reading fakebook charts. So I started listening to "Impressions" and discovered there doesn't seem to be a definitive recording. All the recordings of Coltrane playing this song are live and each is unique. If this isn't the case someone please correct me!

So how should we play the melody? According to Michael BB the version most commonly played at jams is in the 5th edition Real Book. I'll see if I can get a copy of that, but in the meantime it won't hurt to listen to several versions. It should help you with ideas to solo off the melody. 

Personally, I find soloing over this tune challenging. I'm having mild success using short ideas in a call and response manner or as motives.  You might see how this works for you.

Tunes for August jam

This is just a quick note to let you know that designated first set tunes for our next jam on August 7th are Summertime and Impressions. We'll post more supporting material soon.

 In the meantime be aware that Summertime has been done in many different keys, the most common are A minor and D minor. We'll be doing it in A minor. Helpful information on Summertime and other jazz standards is available at Here's the article about Summertime.

Impressions has the same form and changes as So What, a tune we've already covered. We'll take it slower than the original. Here's a link to an article with some good thoughts about structuring a solo over these tunes.

Jam changes coming

It was another fun jam on Sunday and another good turnout. Thank you to everyone that came out, and a big thanks to the band, John, Paul, Chris, and Dan. The band sounded great and that helps all of us sound our best.  

We all want to sound our best. So with that in mind, and after listening to the recordings from Sunday's jam (listen here), we have a few suggestions for musicians, and a few changes planned for the jam that should help. 

First, a reminder that we are all students on the same never-ending path of learning to play jazz. Some of us are just beginning and others are far along, but even the most famous and best players will tell you they have more to learn, they are not satisfied.

To play jazz well takes serious dedication. Even if your goals are modest, like playing at the jam once in a while, you still need to put in a fair amount of work. The most basic requirement is to know the tune you plan to play. If you cannot hum the tune you don’t know it well enough. Professionals have memorized hundreds of tunes and chord progressions, and spent thousands of hours in the practice room to get to the point where they can read a tune off a chart and sound convincing. The rest of us need to spend time learning the tune beforehand.

What is the best way to do this? All great jazz players will tell you that jazz is first and foremost EAR music. Before you even look at a lead sheet you should listen to the tune over and over, singing and then playing along. This helps with proper phrasing. Memorizing the melody makes it much easier to to play a decent solo, and this is also the best way to memorize it. A melody learned this way needs periodic review but will otherwise stick forever.

We are bringing this up because, as Dan mentioned at the jam, some of the players had clearly not listened to the tunes they were performing.  When you cannot play the melody properly the music suffers and so does the audience.

Dan is working on a Jazz Jam Etiquette page which we’ll post soon. In the meantime here are some suggestions and changes which will be incorporated into the jam etiquette page, and which will help us sound our best. Hopefully, the explanations are clear and the changes make sense. If you have thoughts for us, positive or negative, we want to hear them; write a comment, use the suggestion page, or use the contact form

  1. Signing up for the first set: we want this set to be accessible for everyone. To maximize the chance that first set musicians will know the tune you may list a tune designated for that session or one of the tunes previously worked on in the first set – see the list of previous first-set tunes. Review these tunes regularly and you will be ready to play on any tune in the first set, and will have a repertoire of common tunes, the basis for jazz jams and many quickly arranged gigs.
  2. When many musicians are on the bandstand we will arrange beforehand to take turns playing portions of the head. It is easier to tune and maintain a consistent sound this way. 
  3. If you are up on the bandstand and a tune is called that you don’t know, please sit down unless it is a tune with  common chord changes (blues, rhythm changes, etc) that you are comfortable with. In this case, you should solo but lay out during the head.
  4. If all players that know a tune are invited up, please don’t come up unless you KNOW the tune.
  5. When you sign up make sure to list a tune. People listing "any tune" or its equivalent will not be called up as this suggests they do not have a tune prepared.  
  6. If you played in the first set and want to play again in the second set please sign up again and list a new tune. Because everyone deserves a chance to play, players arriving for the second set will receive priority. If there are many players for the second set (like last Sunday) those that already played in the first set might not be called up again until the final tune (which will always be a blues or something from the first set list).
  7. During the second set we will be limiting the number of people up on the bandstand at one time. This makes for better sounding music and a chance for more accomplished soloists to stretch out.
  8. Please do not play or join the band unless you have been invited up. 
  9. Please do not give me a hard time about the list, the order in which people are being called up, the tunes being played, etc. I’m doing the best I can to keep everyone happy, including the audience.