As Sterling mentioned in his last post, jazz music was built on the popular songs of the day, using them as vehicles for improvisation.

There is no reason it should be any different today.  There is music being created all around us just begging to be improvised on, but sometimes we get stuck in the past or the idea of what we think jazz is “supposed” to be. 

But don’t just take it from me… check out some of the greatest jazz musicians of our time playing Kendrick Lamar’s “Untitled No. 5”

Here’s a video of Jacob Collier (arguably the best musical mind alive today) playing Daniel Caesar’s “Best Part”.

Since the jazz leaders of our generation are doing this, we probably should too! There are 2 major benefits of using modern popular songs as vehicles for jazz improvisation.

  • Your music becomes accessible to listeners of music outside of jazz
  • It provides unique and fresh harmonic landscapes with which to work. They are usually relatively simple, which gives you creative freedom to build on them as you wish.

While studying the traditional jazz repertoire is essential to understanding and developing jazz language, it is important to use the tools we develop to explore the musical landscapes of today.  This is what pushes the music forward.

Here’s a playlist I’ve created of great modern songs that can be used as a starting framework for improvisation. 

Have fun, be creative, and develop frameworks that you enjoy improvising over!

Written by Trent Briden

Picture of Trent Briden

Trent Briden

One Response

  1. I ran into a friend in the street last year. He told me that he had heard, on the radio or somewhere, that jazz was the least popular music in America. He said “Children’s” Music had overtaken it, in whatever they use to measure these things. I assumed he knew what he was talking about and accepted it. This was a surprise to me, as a few years ago, I heard Michael Buble was the biggest musical artist in the world. This was probably about 2008 or 9. I agree there are archaic views on what exactly is Jazz, I personally may have some. Anyway, if these tracks that Trent suggests, or their like, can be used as a vehicle to raise the profile of jazz, and give artists a base for developing their improvisational skills, that would be great. They all have a groove and once a track is danceable than it has a much bigger audience. Personally, I think that todays jazz artists should write their own material. I think every generation wants its own material. That is what I am doing. I think this would also raise the profile of this music that I love.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Subscribe to our weekly newsletter that delivers the most actionable, tactical, and organized jazz piano education tips you actually need. Start making more progress, for free.

*Plus, get instant access to the 3-part Jazz Piano School System training – an jazz piano education system that actually helps you get better fast.

Jazz Piano School