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Lynn Renee' Bayley is a writer/ and a reviewer for Fanfare magazine. She was also editor of "The Music Box"

JACK REILLY by Lynn Renee Bayley

Pianist-composer Jack Reilly (1932 - ) is one of the most gifted artists of his generation, a man who has almost constantly bridged the gap between classical music and jazz through a long career that began when he was 14 years old. He was exposed first-hand to the work of such jazz legends as Bud Powell and Lennie Tristano, and managed to study music with the latter. During a stint in the Navy in the early 1950s, he was walking across the compound when he heard the most amazing music being played on a piano. Mesmerized, he entered the room and spent most of the next hour listening to a young Bill Evans, who also greatly influenced him. Later in the decade, he also toured with George Russell. All of these great musicians informed his style, which lies somewhere between the modal complexity of Tristano and the deceptive “simplicity” of Evans and his “rootless chords.” In his later years he has published several superb books, including the three-volume theory study entitled Species Blues (Unichrom Press, 1994), two volumes on The Harmony of Bill Evans (Hal Leonard, 1994 & 2009) and another volume on The Harmony of Dave Brubeck (Hal Leonard, 2013), and he has written several “pure” classical works such as The Mass of Involvement (1968), the oratorio The Light of The Soul (1974), the piano concerto Orbitals (2000) and an orchestral work entitled Chuang-Tzu (1988). He is, then, a remarkable man whose mind is continually working out and solving musical problems as they float in and out of his consciousness.

For the purposes of this study I have chosen what I feel are some of his best works in the jazz-classical genre that have been recorded. Alas, as in the case of so many earlier jazz-classical composers, several of his more interesting hybrid works such as the Jazz Requiem (1968), Concertino for Jazz Piano Trio and Strings (orchestrated by Jack Six in 1980) and the Sonata in d minor for Jazz Piano (1957) have either never been commercially recorded and released or only have portions of them available, sometimes (as in the case of the Concertino) in a stripped –down format. An excellent example of how his mind works, however, is present in his medley of Chopin’s Prelude in C Major and Strayhorn’s Take the “A” Train, which he performs under the title Chopin and Jazz. The Chopin, be it noted, is not “jazzed up,” yet his sense of rhythm is such that only a pianist who has played jazz for some time would be able to play; and already by the 40-second mark Reilly is morphing into “A” Train, slowly and a bit out of tempo at first, then playing a single-line improvisation à la Tristano before picking up the tempo, employing both hands, and transposing the key from Db to D in an instant—then, towards the end, suddenly to C so he can bring back Chopin’s theme in the proper key for the closing.

Even more impressive, however, is his Theme and Variations, Op. 8, in which his modal tendencies—weaned not only by exposure to Tristano and Russell, but also from his studies of Indian music with Ali Akbar Khan in the 1960s—come to the fore. The unsettled sense of tonality, despite a tendency towards D major, keeps the listener on the edge of his or her seat…so, too, the almost circular variants he plays, moving around the already ambiguous tonal center and including some very close harmonies that at times resemble tone clusters; the free-form-sounding middle section, in which Reilly’s impressive technical command comes to the fore; and just the overall sense of adventure. He is determined to take you on a trip to harmonic realms you haven’t yet explored, yet manages to untie his own musical knots and resolve everything in what sounds like tonality but keeps shifting keys even as he moves towards the finish line. His right hand liberally sprinkles notes like a shower of stars as the music comes to a conclusion.

His tune November is also one of those that sounds, even from the outset, somewhere between classical music and jazz. Taken at a brisk 6/8, it is a swirling mélange of notes centered around EI minor, the middle section using very strong syncopation as the left hand plays strongly counter to the right, eventually pulling the right hand into its orbit of swirling notes and motifs. And this piece, too, has an almost classical sense of structure and balance, despite sounding at one point like a very fast-paced version of Brubeck’s Blue Rondo à la Turk. Yet it is in his La-No-Tib Suite (spell it backwards!), composed in 1957 while he was studying with Hall Overton (recall Overton’s orchestral arrangements for Thelonious Monk, discussed in an earlier chapter) and recorded in a trio version by Reilly and later in a more classical vein by his wife, pianist Carol Lian, that one finds the essence of Reilly’s abilities as a composer. In this early work, Brevity is the soul of wit, and indeed there is a great deal of wit in this music, even the march-like opening Moderato. The young Reilly, then only 25 years old, was evidently having some fun while being serious in composing this brief bitonal piece. The central movement, marked Lento, is the most serious in mien and the least connected to jazz; its sparseness of notes and exact placement of stress beats create an impressionistic movement that ends in tone clusters, stabbed notes on the keyboard and eventually a few notes plucked on the strings. Yet it is in the third movement, which is the longest of the three, that Reilly really exercises his prowess, creating an ostinato rhythm (with occasional pauses and interjections from the bassist and drummer) in which he comes as lose to abstract jazz as he ever got.

That last statement is even true when one approaches one of his magnum opuses, Tzu-Jan: The Sound of the Tarot. I was privileged enough, many years ago, to be asked to review his videotaped presentation of this massive work; thus inspired, I submitted liner notes for the audio CDs which he most graciously used. This is an improvised suite of 21 pieces, played in concert while cards from the Aleister Crowley tarot deck are projected on a large screen behind and above him. The general themes for each card—possibly no more than a few bars in length—were worked out in advance, but where he goes from there in each performance differs significantly because these are, after all, improvisations. These pieces are usually played to the cards in the following order:

I The Magician
II The High Priestess
III The Empress
IV The Emperor
V The Hierophant
VI The Lovers
VII The Chariot
VIII Strength
IX The Hermit
X Wheel of Fortune
XI Justice
XII The Hanged Man
XIII Death
XIV Temperance
XV The Devil
XVI The Tower
XVII The Star
XVIII The Moon
XIX The Sun
XX Judgement
XXI The World
O The Fool

The videotaped concert was a complete performance of the entire sequence; unfortunately, for whatever reason, the two CDs issued as Vols. 1 & 2 are the same 10 or 11 pieces as played at two different concerts given in 1984 and 1988. Although it is extraordinarily interesting to be able to compare the two performances this way, I strongly recommend that you try to acquire the video performance in order to see and hear Reilly at work in what has to be one of the most extraordinary feats of extended improvisation ever performed.

That being said, I have selected pieces from both CDs as examples of Reilly’s mind at work in music that is such a complete fusion of classical and jazz elements that the one is often indistinguishable from the other. The music and its development sound formal, but the rhythm often veers into a jazz beat and so much of it is improvised into being that one is scarcely aware of where the few written notes end and the extempore playing begins. Mood and rhythm are perfectly matched to each image, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The 1984 performance of The Magician, for instance, starts with an ominous, pounding tune in Eb minor which opens up into a somewhat circular-sounding single-note motif, which then develops incrementally using “space” between the notes, pauses if you will, that make the listener pull up and notice the proceedings. We then reach an almost lyrical section at the two-minute mark, but an insistent, pounding rhythm enters and the volume decreases. At this point, Reilly combines his ostinato in the left hand with a single-note improvisation in the right as the tonality now hovers around D major or D modal. A rocking barcarolle rhythm, albeit with dark, sinister-sounding rolling bass lines, move us towards a somewhat tone-clusterish finale.

The Priestess begins with a motif that closely resembles the opening of Debussy’s La Cathedrale Engloutie but quickly shifts direction and mood towards a surprisingly lyrical theme in G major which takes on a quintessentially American character, a bit rugged and in a quasi-folk music vein; but double-time improvisations in the right hand start the piece swinging, and it maintains this feeling of swing even when the tempo halves itself again. Several key changes are effected in a short period of time, eventually landing us in C major, where he stays for some time improvising. And once more, Reilly indulges in the sort of fascinating single-note improvisations that Tristano specialized in, albeit expanding it quickly to involve both hands and then moving into a series of staccato chords. These then morph into an improvisation based on the staccato chords, following which is another lyrical section, this one sounding very bluesy and swinging, before the music settles back into semi-staccato single-note playing in the right hand with an occasional moving bass in the left. This very Bach-like section continues on to the end, albeit with a slowly increasing tempo which culminates in right-hand chord tremolos with strong left-hand punctuations.

The Hierophant emerges as a very strange, almost minimalist piece with a soft, stabbing walking bass and quirky answering chords. This, too, increases slowly in tempo, creating a sort of weird tension as it progresses; just as the “development” gets underway, the piece comes to an abrupt end. The Hermit, on the other hand, is one of the longest pieces in this suite, running nine and a half minutes. It is also the closest to atonal classical music, particularly in the opening section, which becomes very busy indeed. Hints of Tristano’s Descent Into the Maelstrom emerge and dissolve as terse, dramatic melodies coalesce and disappear. Then yet another single-line improvisation, this one extending for some time in the bass with occasional counter-lines improvised in the treble. Reilly’s fecundity of invention here is absolutely remarkable; there are one or two pauses where, I imagine, he was thinking of where to go next, but he picks up the thread almost immediately and manages to tie it in to the previous sections. In the middle, another two-handed single-note section before the maelstrom returns. In this manner Reilly manages to juggle his music in such a way that the listener is almost actively involved in the listening process, and as in the case of any really great music, no two people will hear it exactly alike. The descriptions I am giving you here are my impressions, and based as much as possible on objective descriptions of what is happening, but the way it affects me may not at all be the way it affects you.

Moving from the 1984 to the 1988 performance, we can compare his renditions of The Priestess. This second version of The Priestess is much shorter than the first, a little under three minutes, and the music is entirely different: quirkier, almost humorous in a purposely clumsy manner, galumphing across the keyboard with rhythmic flair and a sort of circular-chromatic melodic structure. Although the melodic and harmonic structures are ambiguous, however, the rhythm here stays more or less in a gently rocking 6/8 barcarolle feel, though the music being played is scarcely barcarolle-like! The Empress, in 1988 at least, begins with soft, mysterious, isolated chords before moving into a quasi-tango or habanera rhythm, the harmonic base being mostly in E flat minor. Here, too, Reilly keeps the improvisations rather simple, moving later on into a more swinging feel and eventually into the right hand playing an asymmetrical rhythm against the more regular pulse of the left…and then it ends, quickly and mysteriously. The Chariot also begins in Eb minor, but with a more aggressive pulse, asymmetric although also with a curiously Latin feel to it. Harmonically, it vacillates between minor and major, when suddenly at the one-minute mark we enter a thoroughly swinging two-handed but single-note improvisation passage of considerable ingenuity. Double-time runs are thrown in once again, then a chorded passage played by both hands, leading once again into an entirely new and now bitonal single-note exploration of the theme. Although lasting a little under four minutes, The Chariot seems to impress each and every section into one’s mind while listening with great force and feeling. In these ways Jack Reilly manages to involve us, the listeners, in the creative process.


Excerpt from a work-in-progress on classically-influenced jazz and jazz-influenced classical music, currently under the working title Classical Jive, by Lynn René Bayley. Used by permission.

Jack Reilly's new Dave Brubeck harmony book is released!

As Published by Hal Leonard Music, Inc - As Jack Reilly did with Volumes 1 and 2 of The Harmony of Bill Evans books, he now explores the harmony of Dave Brubeck through extensive writings, music examples, and audio examples as well.

Fans of Brubeck and students of all jazz styles will find this in-depth exploration fascinating and informative.

Songs include: Blues for All * Brandenburg Gate * The Duke * Her Name Is Nancy * Marble Arch * Thank You (Dziekuje) * The Waltz * When I Was Young * and more.

Also includes CD with musical examples!

You can find it at amazon.com or email to Jack personally here.






THE HARMONY OF DAVE BRUBECK, By Jack Reilly. Hal Leonard, Inc.2013. 88 pp. $24.99.

plus CD of musical examples. Jack Reilly . ($22.49 at amazon.com)

by Lynn René Bayley
Classical, Jazz & Ballet Critic
Fanfare magazine

Jack Reilly is one of the most creative yet lesser-known jazz pianists. I’ve never quite understood the reasons for his lack of visibility, except perhaps that he, like jazz singer Sheila Jordan, maintains a low profile because he refuses to compromise his talent. He won’t play show tunes, modern pop, fusion, or for that matter anything that smacks of populism. He goes his own way, plays what he wants, writes what he wants, and occasionally produces fine educational books on jazz theory such as this one as well as The Harmony of Bill Evans. As a friend and admirer of Evans since the early 1950s as a pupil of Lennie Tristano, Reilly remains fascinated and deeply involved in chords and chord structures as the basis of all the music he plays and/or writes.

Thus this book, although a tribute to Brubeck (who died as Reilly was putting the finishing touches on it), begins in Lesson 1, Polytonal Studies, with examples from his own La-No-Tib suite for piano and an explanation of its basic underlying principles. Reilly not only explains polytonality as a mechanism but, more importantly, how polytonality can be used as a medium of expression in both composition and improvisation. Of course there is always the danger, especially with younger and/or less experienced pianists, of becoming hooked on polytonality as a gimmick, meaning that the cleverness of writing bitonally or polytonally becomes the raison d’être of the music’s existence. Ironically, there was little chance of this happening back in the 1950s when Reilly (and Evans) first emerged, for the simple reason that polytonal and bitonal music was little understood by the general public and, for the most part, shunned. It took forceful individuals like Miles Davis, George Russell, John Coltrane, and Charles Mingus to keep at it until such point as it became part of the everyday lexicon of jazz improvisation and composing; and it is not coincidental that all four of those musicians played and recorded with Bill Evans.
As for Brubeck, he gets his due beginning with the second and longer section of the book, titled The Music. I was exceptionally pleased to see a major jazz improviser and composer like Reilly devote so much time to breaking down the structure as well as the harmonic relationships of so many Brubeck pieces. Reilly was extremely fortunate to have Brubeck himself help him analyze these structures via numerous phone conversations during his last year on earth, but the mere fact that this book exists and gives so much theoretical and critical analysis of Brubeck’s music is a minor miracle in itself.

Throughout the years when the Dave Brubeck Quartet was active, Brubeck himself often came under criticism or, worse yet, was completely dismissed by many jazz musicians (I won’t name names, but they know who they are) as a jazz pianist. He was often considered to be bombastic, heavy-handed, and unswinging. Many were the jazzmen who raved about his alto saxist, Paul Desmond, while dismissing Brubeck as a second-rate jazz player (some even had the audacity to ask Desmond to leave the quartet). Thus Reilly’s book restores Dave Brubeck to the place of prominence that I, and thousands of other fans who did understand music and knew he was good, knew that he rightly deserved and still deserves.

Reilly begins his analysis of Brubeck’s music with his very first composition, I Weep No More, written in 1945 in celebration of VE Day. Among the other pieces analyzed here are When I Was Young, The Waltz (with chord voicings by Reilly), The Duke, In Your Own Sweet Way, One Moment Worth Years, Her Name is Nancy, and several themes from the Eurasia suite: Nomad (Afghanistan), Brandenburg Gate (Germany), Dziekuje (Poland), Calcutta Blues (India), and Watusi Drums (Africa). How well I remember the backlash to that album when it came out! “That’s not jazz, it’s classical music…Why doesn’t Brubeck just go write suites and leave jazz alone?” etc. etc. (Yes, I’m paraphrasing. You won’t find these actual quotes on the Internet. But I heard them bandied about all the time back in the early 1960s.) Perhaps one reason why we, like Reilly, can come to appreciate this music so much better today is, to be frank about it, there’s a much better understanding now of jazz-classical fusion and the deep relationship between classical structure, or at least jazz structure based on classical principles, and “real” jazz as improvisation that is also based on classical music. (For the same reasons, such unusual early pieces as Red Norvo’s Dance of the Octopus, Morton Gould’s Boogie Woogie Etude, and even parts of Duke Ellington’s Black, Brown and Beige Suite are now considered great and important milestones in jazz, whereas in their own time they were not merely misunderstood but actively condemned as not being jazz at all.)

One of the more interesting of Reilly’s comments comes on pp. 45-46, when discussing In Your Own Sweet Way. To quote: “We’re definitely on slippery slopes in this tune. Section A can be analyzed as all in G minor or all in B-flat major. If you accept the G minor analysis, then the Roman numerals will be: Gm: II IV | I etc. And if you accept the B-flat analysis: VII IIIx7 | IV, etc. Does it matter? Yes and no! Yes, if you are a composer and want to understand major keys, their relative minors, and the use of secondary dominants…No, if you’re not so inclined to the intellectual/theoretical elements behind Dave’s thinking. See if I care!”

Yet there are many little insights scattered throughout this handy volume, and not just by Reilly. There are many anecdotes and sidelights written by Brubeck himself (would that Reilly had been lucky enough to get input from Bill Evans before he died!) and, on p. 66, comments by Brubeck’s son Darius, mother Elizabeth, and brother Howard on the pieces from the Eurasia suite. To be honest, I found these comments to be some of the greatest treasures of this collection and thus of interest even to the non-professional musician. More to the point, one realizes in reading Brubeck’s own comments one of the reasons why, perhaps, he was undervalued for so long. He was extremely modest about his music and not prone to bragging about it, let alone arguing its merits with critics or fans with ears of stone. I was lucky, once, to be a guest on a jazz radio program where the host talked to Brubeck live via the phone. The man’s humility and graciousness always overrode his desire to be more widely liked or understood. Brubeck always felt that his music spoke for him much more eloquently than he could with words, thus he only spoke up when prodded. Now there is this book, and Jack Reilly’s superb analysis of his music, to rebuild Brubeck’s credentials as one of the finest jazz composers of his era.

The accompanying CD is instructive and fascinating, but not always easy to follow with the printed music for the simple reason that Reilly sometimes improvises beyond the end of the written music. Essentially, the scores reduce the music to its basics, with slow-moving chords so the ear can catch what is going on. There are no pauses of silence between most of the tracks, which sometimes confuses the ear, and in at least one case (Her Name is Nancy) a pause within the track. Sometimes, Reilly plays melody notes entirely different from what is in the score, for instance in Nomad (Afghanistan), where the opening bar is marked as four C-sharps in the right hand but Reilly plays C-sharp, A above, A, C-sharp, with different underlying chords on all four beats, not the single block chord held for four beats as notated. In the second bar he plays a melodic line of four quarter notes, B, G above, G above, B, not the notated eighth notes in the score. Thus you need to keep watching your CD player to figure out where you are. Well, he’s a jazz musician, not a Midi!

This is an excellent book for anyone who wishes to analyze Brubeck’s music harmonically or structurally in any way. For the intermediate jazz student it is even more valuable as a teaching and learning tool.

Harmony of Bill Evans Vol. 1 re-released, now with CD!

Jack Reilly's The Harmony of Bill Evans Vol. 1 has been re-released in its second edition by Hal Leonard.,Inc. The new version has a CD now included with the examples of the porrtions explained and notated in the text with a bonus: Jack has included, as track 26, an18- minute recording of himself playing Evans classics in a wonderful medley:

I Should Care, My Bells, Resurrection (by Jack Reilly) My Funny Valentine, Time Remembered and Peri's Scope.

The tunes were recorded in London at the Royal Academy of Music in 1990. You can order at your local music outlet or visit amazon.com's page.


FOREWORD by Jan Stevens for "THE HARMONY OF BILL EVANS- VOL. 2" Book / CD package


“Though everything else may appear shallow and repulsive, even the smallest task in music is so absorbing, and carries us so far away from town, country, earth, and all worldly things, that it is truly a blessed gift of God.” -- Felix Mendelssohn

The incomparable pianistic innovations of Bill Evans (1929 – 1980) continue to be celebrated by jazz fans, and closely studied by serious musicians worldwide. During his over twenty-five year recording career, he changed the approach to the sound of the piano itself in jazz by his touch, and his attention to pedaling, phrasing and dynamics. His remarkable approach to the possibilities of interplay within the piano-bass-drums trio is well-documented from the late 1950s on. READ THE REST HERE


After the acclaim recived by VOL.1, Hal Leonard, Inc, (the world's largest music publisher) has the new, much talked-about book "THE HARMONY OF BILL EVANS VOL. 2" by master pianist -composer Jack Reilly (with Foreward by pianist Jan Stevens of the Bill Evans Webpages site). Bill Evans died in 1980 but the compositional legacy he left behind is still growing. This expansive study shows how and why.

In Jack Reilly's second volume, he provides a deeper appreciation and understanding of Evans' compositions. This book and CD package (only $29.99 USD) includes two important theory chapters (which stand out on their own merits, brilliantly) , plus ten of Evans’ most passionate and melodically gorgeous works. The voicing charts for all ten songs are more complex than in volume one and pianistically more demanding, yet always worth the effort. The subjects of modulation and key relationships that are discussed in each chapter will help the player memorize faster and improvise with more facility; not an easy task when performing Evans' music.

The "Lament for Bill" in chapter 13 is the author's tribute to the genius of this great artist.

The accompanying CD will add to the enjoyment, understanding, and appreciation of the written examples. This a powerhouse book that will a prove to be a deep and indispensible experience for pianists of all stylistic persuasions as well as serious Evans fans. There is much to learn and enjoy here!

Songs include: Your Story • Laurie • For Nenette • My Bells • Maxine • Song for Helen • Turn Out the Stars • Very Early • Waltz for Debby • and more!

, check your local music retailer, or you can buy from amazon.com.



In the eyes of anyone interested in the technical aspects of Bill Evans, this will make for fascinating reading and, hopefully, some challenging playing too. Reilly is the renowned teacher and performer whose students include such as Bill Charlap, and whose achievements have taken in albums as well as tours in the U.K. The fact that he also had an early acquaintance with Bill, long before the latter became famous, obviously lends weight to his intention in explain the inner mechanics of Evans’ music.

It’s worth noting though that this is basically a theoretical essay with examples, rather than just a series of charts linked by some “and-then-he-wrote” text. Of the many illustrations provided, only two seem to be Evans’ own arrangements of his originals, while another eight are Evans tunes arranged by Jack Reilly. Then there are three more pieces which are, in fact, Jack Reilly originals, marked as such, that somehow reflect the Evans style, and the Reilly thesis about how it worked.

The dense theoretical section occupying the first half of the folio may be tough reading for some, and some of the examples in this section are clearly intended to be illustrative, rather than pieces that make music in their own right. But they enhance appreciation of the Evans tunes, as do Reilly’s examples on the accompanying CD.

----Brian Priestley

CLICK HERE for a free MP3 of "Lament for Bill" by Jack Reilly!


by Jack Reilly. Check it out here! An ITALIAN version is now available. Same price, plus overseas postage!

JAZZ PIANO SOLOS book (revised) by Jack Reilly

This just- released book contains inventive, high quality piano arrangemments of well-known standards and some original pieces, and are for mid-intermediate and advanced piano students and players.

Hal Leonard, Inc. ($9.99)

In stores now, or more ordering info here

Series: Piano Solo Songbook
HL #00310159

Song List:

* All The Things You Are (two versions) * Body And Soul
* Clara's Bell * Halloween * Here's That Rainy Day* I Can't Get Started With You * I Concentrate On You * I Could Write A Book * I Thought About You * My Shining Hour * November * Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head * Ruby, My Dear * Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most * Tenderly * Waltz For Fall


ForFor a touching tribute by JACK REILLY to the great musician HALL OVERTON go here


Live at Dean Clough CD -Jack Reilly"Live" at Dean Clough Center (CD)

Check it out at CDBABY.COM!

"This is a continually delightful, engaging and rewarding two-disc program. With Jack Reilly's music, there's never a sense of repetition or anticlimax. He's one of the few musicians about whom it can safely be said that more is more."

-- Sam Chell, allaboutjazz.com

newRead the rest of this amazing review by Professor Sam Chell at allaboutjazz.com

allaboutjazz.com"Both encores carry the same message that reilly imparts from the start of his concert performance.
Jazz stands tall when taken seriously and absorbed." --Jim Santella, L.A. Jazz Scene


Check out Jack Reilly's new SHOWCASE page at Allaboutjazz.com - and download the FREE track from the "Innocence" CD!
While you're there, you can also read their exclusive interview with Jack.

" He's (Reilly) certainly a rare individual and plays and writes with utter conviction in styles ranging from free form improv through bebop and mainstream and even into classical music." --- Duncan Heining, Jazzwise (UK) magazine£

Check out Jack's complete
catalog of CD recordings:

See the CD PAGE for audio samples and more information.

You can now also purchase any of these CDs at cdbaby.com

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