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What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? #2349377 11/12/14 11:01 PM
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I'm a bit sketchy on what constitutes cocktail piano. Is there something that distinguishes cocktail piano, and jazz solo piano in general?

Thanks for any input.

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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2349498 11/13/14 08:31 AM
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I've been playing cocktail piano for almost 40 years and I still haven't figured out the answer to that question. There are accomplished classical pianists playing in cocktail lounges, heavy jazz musicians, musical theater experts, and people like me, who write their own music and hope for the best. Some of the best jazz pianists I know work the occasional cocktail gig.

I think the best answer is to find a room that suits your style and never forget that you are not the star of the show, but part of the ambience of the room. Stay in the background (except when it's appropriate to step into the spotlight's glow), play what you love, and the customers will love it, too.


Robin Meloy Goldsby
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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2349638 11/13/14 02:19 PM
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Thanks for the input!

Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2349645 11/13/14 02:30 PM
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My definition of cocktail piano would be :
- you stay in the background
- don't play too loud
- don't necessarily play in tempo; lots of rubato

Jazz is the opposite- people are (supposed to be) listening, you have
to make it swing and make it interesting. Not appropriate for cocktail
piano because it gets in the way of conversations.


Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2349648 11/13/14 02:33 PM
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cocktail piano refers to a style of solo piano where the melody is highly ornamented with runs and arpeggios. the repertoire is usually pop tunes and standards.

btw robin- i loved your book.


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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2349744 11/13/14 06:27 PM
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Look around this site for a sense of cocktail style piano:

http://www.cocktailpiano.com/index.html

He (Jim Haskins) says pretty much what is said here, but you get a real feel for the style through the CD samples and his writing about fine cocktail piano rooms.

By the way, I have the entire collection of his CDs, having purchased them from him over the years as he puts them out. All are really wonderful listening.

Tony


Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2349763 11/13/14 07:17 PM
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Cocktail piano uses standard jazz harmonies on things like showtunes and standards, but discards the rhythms you find in straight jazz in favor of a looser embellishment of the melody. Cocktail piano stays with a standard harmonic interpretation of a tune. Also since it's solo piano, voicings include the root. Based heavily around the melody. Because the goal is basically background music, you won't get too far out as far as improvisation or harmonies go.

Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2349809 11/13/14 08:47 PM
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I would not say that cocktail piano style abandons jazz rhythms, I don't do that and I play a lot pf cocktail parties... I would say that many cocktail pianist don't have much of a jazz rhythm sense and that's why they tend to abandon the jazz rhythm.

Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2843885 04/30/19 06:02 PM
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Song for Sienna. A Sweet little tune I often play during high moments in a cocktail lounge smile


My YouTube channel: A Piano of Tasmania
Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: Michael Martinez] #2844273 05/01/19 06:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Michael Martinez
Cocktail piano uses standard jazz harmonies on things like showtunes and standards, but discards the rhythms you find in straight jazz in favor of a looser embellishment of the melody. Cocktail piano stays with a standard harmonic interpretation of a tune. Also since it's solo piano, voicings include the root. Based heavily around the melody. Because the goal is basically background music, you won't get too far out as far as improvisation or harmonies go.
This is a good description of my idea of cocktail piano.

I wonder if Beegie Adair should be classified as a cocktail pianist? I've read that she is plays "smooth jazz". Here is her recording of Yesterdays to help you decide:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_aDqfgr6R4

Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2844304 05/01/19 08:31 PM
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I can’t classify Beegie Adair, but I love her music.


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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2844354 05/02/19 02:36 AM
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The function of the cocktail piano for ears is similar to function of interior design of the hotel hall for eyes, i.e. background function - with all the ensuing consequences.

Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: ClsscLib] #2844443 05/02/19 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by ClsscLib
I can’t classify Beegie Adair, but I love her music.


+1. smile


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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2845822 05/06/19 02:49 PM
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They are the same.

Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: NittyRanks] #2845832 05/06/19 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by NittyRanks
They are the same.
Not really. Cocktail piano is a type of jazz piano.

Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianoloverus] #2845949 05/07/19 12:34 AM
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Originally Posted by NittyRanks
They are the same.
Can you imagine McCoy Tyner in the hotel lobby?


Originally Posted by pianoloverus
[Not really. Cocktail piano is a type of jazz piano.
As well as country and pop piano.

Last edited by Nahum; 05/07/19 12:35 AM.
Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2845967 05/07/19 02:33 AM
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Cocktail piano has nothing to do with real Jazz. Cocktail piano is like what used to be called Easy Listening music it's fluffy background music.

Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: Nahum] #2845971 05/07/19 02:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Nahum
Originally Posted by NittyRanks
They are the same.
Can you imagine McCoy Tyner in the hotel lobby?


Originally Posted by pianoloverus
[Not really. Cocktail piano is a type of jazz piano.
As well as country and pop piano.

I have tuned for a McCoy Tyner performance in a hotel, but it was not in the lobby.


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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2845975 05/07/19 03:29 AM
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Originally Posted by BDB

I have tuned for a McCoy Tyner performance in a hotel, but it was not in the lobby.
Yes, it is a hard problem.

Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2845977 05/07/19 03:45 AM
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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: Docbop] #2845993 05/07/19 05:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Docbop
Cocktail piano has *nothing* to do with real Jazz. Cocktail piano is like what used to be called Easy Listening music it's fluffy background music.



That’s an overgeneralization.

There is a range of repertoire, style, and skills among working pianists who play cocktail gigs. Some do play real jazz tunes and material that is hardly “fluffy.”

There’s really no need to stoop to unnecessary and inaccurate sweeping pejorative characterizations about real musicians who are working hard to make people happy through music.




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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2846003 05/07/19 06:37 AM
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Originally Posted by ClsscLib
Originally Posted by Docbop
Cocktail piano has *nothing* to do with real Jazz. Cocktail piano is like what used to be called Easy Listening music it's fluffy background music.



”

There’s really no need to stoop to unnecessary and inaccurate sweeping pejorative characterizations about real musicians who are working hard to make people happy through music.


+1

Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: ClsscLib] #2846005 05/07/19 06:39 AM
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Originally Posted by ClsscLib
There’s really no need to stoop to unnecessary and inaccurate sweeping pejorative characterizations about real musicians who are working hard to make people happy through music.

Well said! thumb


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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2846019 05/07/19 07:47 AM
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I refer to it as accessible (for your average person in the street) jazz. I'm sure that's not the only interpretation of the term. I'm somewhat of a hardened classical guy (beginner pianist though) but I'm very fond of the cocktail style, to the extent that I'm heading that way in my own playing.

Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: Michael P Walsh] #2846031 05/07/19 08:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Michael P Walsh
I refer to it as accessible (for your average person in the street) jazz. I'm sure that's not the only interpretation of the term. I'm somewhat of a hardened classical guy (beginner pianist though) but I'm very fond of the cocktail style, to the extent that I'm heading that way in my own playing.


That seems to me a much fairer way to put it.

In the classical music world -- where I've spent a lot of time -- comparing "light classical" or "pops" to traditional classical music doesn't have the same pejorative relationship as that which exists regarding "easy listening" vs "jazz."

Some music played by good pianists doing cocktail gigs is jazz-based, but other tunes are from shows, the GAS, or popular music. (And great jazz musicians, of course, often tap shows, the GAS, and popular music as sources for indubitably great jazz interpretations.)

I consider a good pianist doing these gigs as always worth listening to, even though many in the room may not be doing active listening.



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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: ClsscLib] #2846033 05/07/19 08:21 AM
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Originally Posted by ClsscLib
Some music played by good pianists doing cocktail gigs is jazz-based, but other tunes are from shows, the GAS, or popular music. I consider a good pianist doing these gigs as always worth listening to, even though many in the room may not be doing active listening.

This is a great point and probably contributes to the lack of "definition" around what is "cocktail piano." I've been in restaurants and piano bars where the cocktail pianist was definitely not playing jazz - for example, they'd play showtunes, which has about as much relation to jazz as Chopin would.

But in the end, it's only a name. For some people, it's possible "accessible jazz" does include showtunes / GAS, or maybe even rock standards. The average man on the street can't be expected to be too precise in matters such as this.


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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2846034 05/07/19 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by ClsscLib
Some music played by good pianists doing cocktail gigs is jazz-based, but other tunes are from shows, the GAS, or popular music. I consider a good pianist doing these gigs as always worth listening to, even though many in the room may not be doing active listening.

...I've been in restaurants and piano bars where the cocktail pianist was definitely not playing jazz - for example, they'd play showtunes, which has about as much relation to jazz as Chopin would....


Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, and others wrote a lot of show tunes that were awfully close to being jazz compositions (and that formed the foundation of the GAS). Needless to say, even a lot of show tunes that clearly are not jazz music have been the basis for great jazz interpretations. That's also true even for some top 40-type popular music.


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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2846035 05/07/19 08:31 AM
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....All of which confirms to me the wisdom of those two great Ellington observations:

There are only two kinds of music -- good music and the other kind; and

If it sounds good, it is good.


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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2846087 05/07/19 12:00 PM
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Hi

No necessarily an answer to the OP, but my 10p worth.

Bottom line cocktail Piano is mainly background music, but it can still be Jazz Piano, played with taste and restraint.

Having done a bit myself, to a very low standard, many years ago, I used to mix it up. I would play 'Charade' with flowery arpeggios and frequently got compliments from a lovely waitress at the Restaurant. Then I might play a slow blues and follow that with a Jazz standard and improvise a bit. Mind you I'm not a proper Jazz pianist, and I never took chances and stayed well within my own safe limits. I never played any classical when I was doing it, simply because I had nothing in my repertoire then. If I had, I certainly might have played some Bach or Chopin. An old guy once tipped me £5 after I had played "Ain't Misbehavin'" and said "that reminded me of the old days when I used to listen to Fats Waller". I should add I can't play like Fats Waller.... at all!

The fact that some elements of Jazz Piano, such as George Shearing's locked hands technique (though not his invention), have become part of the cocktail Pianists armory shows there is a link. But that same cocktail Pianist might also play some Chopin, some Beatles tunes etc etc.

So in my view the best cocktail pianists are vastly under-rated. They may or may not be Jazz Pianists, but they are very versatile and lets face it they are professional musicians trying to earn a living, so they should have our support. Sadly the term seems to be used in a derogatory way sometimes. It shouldn't be!

Cheers

Simon


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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: ClsscLib] #2846099 05/07/19 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by ClsscLib
Originally Posted by Docbop
Cocktail piano has *nothing* to do with real Jazz. Cocktail piano is like what used to be called Easy Listening music it's fluffy background music.



That’s an overgeneralization.

There is a range of repertoire, style, and skills among working pianists who play cocktail gigs. Some do play real jazz tunes and material that is hardly “fluffy.”

There’s really no need to stoop to unnecessary and inaccurate sweeping pejorative characterizations about real musicians who are working hard to make people happy through music.




I am very accurate in what I'm saying like most you don't know the difference between real Jazz and Jazz as a style of music. Real Jazz is an approach to playing, in fact it doesn't even have to be what you call Jazz it all about pushing boundaries constantly exploring. Too many people think rolling eighth notes and playing extended chords makes something Jazz it doesn't.

Oh well enjoy yourselves I'm outta here.

Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2846136 05/07/19 02:56 PM
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Whatevs.


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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2846699 05/09/19 07:50 AM
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Speaking of accessible jazz vs. not so much, I first saw these folks, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, perform in Chicago in 1971. I saw them a few times later on in NYC. No one would accuse them of selling out to accessibility: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/01/...nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=270993150509


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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: ClsscLib] #2846831 05/09/19 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by ClsscLib
Speaking of accessible jazz vs. not so much, I first saw these folks, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, perform in Chicago in 1971. I saw them a few times later on in NYC. No one would accuse them of selling out to accessibility: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/01/...nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=270993150509


I meant 1975, not 1971. Sorry.


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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2846873 05/09/19 06:10 PM
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It is not an "exactly" kind of thing. It is simply piano music you may hear in a lounge. Agree that it is background and not a show. So, go easy on the far out stuff. Also, recognizeable tunes go over the best. But really, anything is game. Good to know Moon River and others that are highly requested. Seems like it is it's own genre, but it really isn't.

Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: Docbop] #2847030 05/10/19 10:24 AM
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This is the kind of Background music I play in cocktail bars smile


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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: Piano of Tasmania] #2847034 05/10/19 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Piano of Tasmania
This is the kind of Background music I play in cocktail bars smile

That link didn't work because there was stuff at the end of the URL. Here is your video again:



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"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2867713 07/09/19 01:50 PM
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It is more than just a type of Jazz. I think Dave Brubeck’s Strange Meadowlark or one of Satie’s Gymnopedies or a piano arrangement of a Beatles song (other than copyright issues) can all be used easily for cocktail piano.


Login name is a tribute to Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, arguably the historically first great keyboard virtuoso.
Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2868386 07/11/19 12:04 PM
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malkin Offline
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I'd say the difference is in what/how much the audience is drinking and what/how much the audience is attending to the music.


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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2869203 07/14/19 10:07 AM
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I sometimes start with some classical and improvise on it during dinner hour along with some standards. Later in the night more jazz and pop/rock stuff. It's always a challenge trying to play what you think they'd like to hear. What one person might like another might not. The other night I always end with a blues number which people seem to like. But one older woman said what's with the blues? and smurked. Go figure.
Here's something at the beginning of dinner hour. Sorry I hit a crack here and there as I'm playing on a console and there are lots of distractions. People are walking right by in front of the piano and trying to acknowledge them while playing can be a challenge.
Here I'm playing a medley of Piazolla's Milonga Del Angel into Satie's Gymnopedie No 1.

https://www.facebook.com/134763176572883/videos/379226556281606/

Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2869217 07/14/19 10:30 AM
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TomLC Offline
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Very nice, joggerjazz. You are certainly talented. I know it's a restaurant, but I really wanted that woman to lower her voice. smirk


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Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: joggerjazz] #2869319 07/14/19 04:57 PM
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Qwerty53 Offline

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Two of my favorite pieces; loved what you did especially with the Milonga.


Mister Upright, Yamaha YUS5.
Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: TomLC] #2869467 07/15/19 08:57 AM
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Thanks. Yes, people can get loud at times. But as long as people are there I'm usually happy. Playing to an empty room is no fun. Then there's times you're playing and talking to people usually asking for requests.

Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2870697 07/19/19 04:46 PM
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First post . . . . I've read several comments that seem contradictory. Most gigs seem to be described as wallpaper, while at the same time suggesting that familiar songs are a good idea. So are they listening or not? My solo experience is limited; I've mostly played in a trio format or larger, but I assume that the need for a song to be familiar changes depending on how many people are there, eating/drinking, and mostly how the dynamics of the room changes as the gig progresses. I get complimented for songs that they recognize but also for songs that I 'm pretty sure they've never heard.

For context, I've heard videos of a hotel pianist near me that plays what sounds like one continuous improvisation all night. It's a steady gig and she's very good at it.

Re: What exactly is cocktail piano as opposed to jazz piano? [Re: pianolearnerstride] #2870847 07/20/19 05:38 AM
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I like the flow Dave McKenna keeps and how he treats medleys. Wish I had a chance to see him live. But there is a site that has videos and recordings of him worth listening to.

http://www.aahome.com/dave/index.html

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