Here is a five-minute jazz improvisation played on two pianos by Oscar Peterson and Andre Previn. Oscar Peterson (1925 – 2007) was a Canadian jazz pianist, virtuoso and composer. He is considered to be one of the greatest jazz pianists and played thousands of concerts worldwide in a career lasting more than 60 years. André Previn (1929 – 2019) was a German-American pianist, composer, arranger, and conductor. He is described by many as one of the most charismatic and versatile musicians of his generation.
Jazz is a style of music which emerged in America around the turn of the 20th century. Jazz can be characterised by improvisations, syncopation and swing rhythms.
What to listen out for:
Improvised playing – this is a way of performing music that is not based on a written score. It is created spontaneously, but will often involve elements of prior preparation and planning. Both pianists are improvising over a repeated 12 bar chord pattern.
Syncopation – this is rhythm patterns where stressed notes are placed off the beat. Improvisations are often syncopated to make them feel jazzy.
Jazz often makes use of triplets and dotted rhythms to help the melodies flow as well as ornaments (short added notes) and accents (emphasising certain notes) to add interest.
The walking bass line – this is when the performer plays crotchets either ‘walking’ up the blues scale or arpeggio.