what are some strategies for making simple pop tunes interesting by jazzing them up? i have a gig coming up where i'll be playing with a vocalist and she'd like to cover some very simple songs by katy perry and other pop artists. i wondered what some tips and tricks might be for jazzing this up a little bit. thanks!
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the main thing you do in pop tunes to make them more interesting is going to be on the rhythmic side. usually you won't reharmonize a pop song, although you can add color to chords, such as making basic minor chords into minor 9ths or other interesting voicings.

it's important to listen to the tunes before you play them if you haven't already to get a feel for them.

as far as rhythmic interest goes, funk up your left hand a little bit so that your bass notes imply drum beats.  that's a great place to start.  if you listen to pop and other straight kinds of music (latin, funk, etc) you'll notice that the bass and drums are often rhythmically linked in many ways, so when you're accompanying someone, think about that with your left hand.
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i did it for a couple of years.  and yes, there are some great players playing in churches.  some of them gig out, but a lot of them only play at church.

i'd love to hear about your experience.  the churches i played for were what some folks call "mega-churches"  we did play some traditional gospel stuff, but a lot of it was pop/rock oriented.  always an elaborate production though...

i did get to play at a friends funeral that was very-cool-real-deal gospel  gig.  i walked in and immediately saw two leslies spinning at opposite sides of the stage...i got to play the grand piano..those guys were playing some cool changes and voicings
the master:

one of the most fun aspects for me when playing gospel in a church setting is how much people love the music.  i guess it has to do with the setting (i'm not a church going person) but there's an awful lot of good vibes going around.

some of the best jazz pianists i know came out of the gospel scene.  i think part of it is that they are performing to people who want rhythm and there is a lot of ear work- you gotta know when to play and when not to, and then when it's time to play you gotta pull something out that's going to get people into the spirit of the moment.

gospel playing in a church is like going to school to learn how to be a stage musician.  awesome that you're doing that gig!
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the real master
i agree with scot and doc.  i play in a praise band at my local church on a regular basis.  we do a mix of pop oriented tunes and true gospel.  we have a full-time piano player so i usually play string synth fills or hammond organ (no leslie yet but have the electronic effect box).  it is a guitar/vocal driven band, so not much keyboard soloing.  that's o.k. though because it's always such a joyful experience, and i dig playing with these people.
i would say the charts are sometimes as challenging as a jazz arrangement.  

and for good measure :)

(i meant to post in here a while ago, but now i'm doing it just so we get a new post on the forum.  it's been a week! :o )

i have never played for a church (and being catholic, most of the services i've attended have been decidedly more in the "old" european style than what you're talking about).  however, i have attended gospel concerts and gotten a chance to hang out with some of the musicians.  most of those guys can *play*.  they know the hymns and how to play the basic stuff, but then they also know all of those wicked reharmonizations.  many of them can also solo if they get an opening.  one of the musicians i talked to years ago said that he was basically playing bop during his solo breaks.

what's more amazing is that some of them (as scott pointed out) learn most or all of it by ear.  i had a student once (in my history classes) who knew all of these beautiful ways to play tunes in a jazzy/churchy style.  when i asked him what changes he was throwing in he couldn't tell me;  he just picked it up watching or by ear from the older players at his church.
reharmonizing is usually not going to work unless your singer is on point with those changes.

i agree with scot, there is a lot you can do rhythmically. also with group dynamics (depending on the lyrics).

* richard cheese has several albums of jazzified covers:
* frank bennett does the same kind of thing i believe, here he's doing depeche mode:
* the bad plus do a lot of "rock covers":

instrumentally i like to slightly modify the melody so that a major song becomes a minor song (replace major chords with minor ones) or vice versa, another one is to play major sevenths where the melody note is the major seventh

mehldau is a boss for instrumental takes.

good luck
some church organs are scary. take the last one i played, for instance. the moment i went into the motor room and turned the beast on, this massive armeggedic-type noise started (the pipes warming up, i guess). i dived out of the motor room in alarm (quite literally), ashen-faced, wondering if i'd pressed the wrong button. though it seemed like it was too late to go back in.  i've played lots of organs in the past and had to turn them on, but this one took the biscuit. i've played bigger ones than this one, but none of them made the same amount of noise. this one was very old - or maybe it was the location of the motor room or something, but it seemed as if the whole of the back of the church was shaking and possibly going to explode.
my organ teacher was once playing an organ at a concert, and the thing went on fire. but i'm presuming this was rare.
i had a phone call, asking me to play that organ again, three days ago. needless to say, i declined.
anyway, the gig didn't go so well. well, it went fine, music-wise, but if you can call playing for 45 minutes in a state of high-alarm ok, then it wasn't good.
: )
think rhythm for sure .... so many songs can easily go to reggae.
reggae can default to pop as well.
try making michael jackson's "the way you make me feel" as a 12/8 or even 6/8.
so many songs can get really interesting when you twist them around.
after thousands of solo piano gigs i had to do this for my own amusement
and to keep my sanity.
good luck
ha, i can only imagine!  i have a little hammond m40 and i get worried when i turn that thing on wrong...
If I'm not back in 24 hours, call the president.

Scot is available for skype jazz piano lessons (and google hangouts, phone call, etc...)
Use the contact link at the top of the page.
if ya haven't seen these fellas yet, check em out.  here's their rendition of the adele tune, "rollin in the deep"

wow!  can you post a pic of that m 40?  i've never heard of that model.  i have an m3.  is it similar?
i also have a bv.  most people have not heard of that one.  (one of the predecessors to the b3)
i probably got the number wrong, maybe it's an m3- just a smaller version of the b3, a mainstay in studios back in the day.  i saw it at a second hand store a few years ago.  i was walking past this blinding display of colorful organ buttons and flipper switches when i stopped and took a few steps back because i thought i saw draw bars.  and there it was- said hammond, had drawbars and pedals, and the price was $29.95 with 30% off.  and it worked great.  i don't think they knew how to turn it on, heh heh.  i got it home, filled it with oil, cleaned the drawbar contacts off, and man, the thing hums.
If I'm not back in 24 hours, call the president.

Scot is available for skype jazz piano lessons (and google hangouts, phone call, etc...)
Use the contact link at the top of the page.
and yea, i never heard of the bv.  is it as big as the b3?
If I'm not back in 24 hours, call the president.

Scot is available for skype jazz piano lessons (and google hangouts, phone call, etc...)
Use the contact link at the top of the page.
if it is that big, i bet it never gets moved. of course unless the dr.'s sons are home. i hated lugging a b3 around.
yeah.  it looks exactly like a b3 (all bs have the same case) but it doesn't have the solid state pre-amp nor the "percussion" attack switches.  the "v" in bv stands for vibrato. i have also seen a bc (chorus) and a b2.  

the m3 is the only m i've seen, which is why i was so interested in your m40.  the m3 has two keyboards and two sets of drawbars, but one of the sets is not a traditional set.  i cannot remember which set or what is different.  it current resides at my son's house. (i said, "if you can move it, you can have it":)

and dennis, you are correct.  i moved this "b"east into my house years ago and have not moved it since!  i also have a leslie 31h - another beast!  do you still have your b3?
nope, when i first starting having back issues, it was the first to go. i still don't think anything emulates the sound accurately, nothing will ever sound like the b3 and the leslie rotary to me, man those are some old memories, lol.
you bet!  a few years ago i saw michael mcdonald and steely dan on the same show.  michael's band came on first.  he had b3 player with a leslie on each side of the stage.  killin!!!

when steely dan came on, their guy had the roland vk - which normally sounds very cool, but after and hour or so of hearing the real thing, it just sounded puny.  

there is nothing like playing or sitting next to a real hammond and a real leslie, feeling it in your bones, smelling motors, etc...:)
another thing about playing in churches is that it's generally pretty cold.  some gospel music might be in a heated hall, which will be okay. but big old churches are generally cold.....
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