The compositions found in this play-along are from the period of Ron’s creative efforts that can be described as ECM-Wayne/Herbie-modal, meaning the chords and chord progressions are largely non-functional and not tied to an overall tonality. For that reason the compositions should provide both a challenge and learning experience for the improvisor who is new to the world of modal jazz harmony.

The rhythm section performing the compositions on the accompanying CD is quite expert with the interpretation of this compositional style and provide the excitement and inspiration that should assist the improvisor in attaining a successful performance. One of the attributes of this kind of composition is an openness that allows the improvisor to share with the compositional process through interplay with the rhythm section. Of course, this being a play-along with a recorded rhythm section that is not possible.

What makes this play-along publication very special is that there are included improvisation demonstrations by master player and educator Jerry Coker – his improvisation examples can be described as “state-of-the-art.” For those who are interested, the rhythm section was recorded first without a melody player/improvisor – quite a challenge. The recording was then sent to Jerry who studied the recording and a month later flew down to Miami to record the demonstration improvisations over what had by then become a play-along.

So, enjoy the compositions, enjoy the burning rhythm section, but mostly enjoy the special contributions of Jerry Coker.

Note: the original recording and publication period of this book was 1985-86; the compositions are from 1969 to 1984.



The lieb in the title refers to saxophonist David Liebman to whom this composition was dedicated. The intention of this tune is to blend the darkness of ECM like harmonies with American exuberance. The openness of the harmonic rhythm should allow the improviser ample space for creativity. Jerry Coker plays a beautiful improvisation on the Demo tracks of the accompanying CD of this book. A transcription of Jerry's solo can be found in the I.A.J.E. Journal archives.


An early but popular composition, the endearing melody and open modal harmony make this a great tune to play over. Try to build your solo following the general tessitura of the melody along with the emotional mood each mode suggests.


Wood dance, another composition from Ron’s “modal” period, was composed to feature Mark Egan on acoustic(wooden) bass. Although it was recorded by the Miller/ Colby group: Mark Colby, sax, Mark Egan, bass, Ron, piano, Billy Bowker, drums, it was never released.


This is the first composition of the “illusion” series. Influence by ECM compositions, it has stark, tense sounding harmony and should be performed with great intensity and anger. An alternative interpretation is to contrast the sections with the
first being free with broken time and the bridge being played as hard-swing.

RUTH 1969

Written for Ron’s wife, this is one of the first of Ron’s tunes to show a change in influence from that of Horace Silver to that of Wayne and Herbie, The influences can be traced directly to the Herbie Hancock composition, Little One and to
The Pines of Rome by Respighi. The symmetric harmonic rhythm and hidden diatonic cadences make this a nice tune to play over. Ruth should be performed as a gentle jazz waltz with a subtle swing – like the Herbie tune, Little One. Recorded examples are found on the Doug Bickel CD City of Rhythm, and the album America by Stan Samole.

The only improvisation difficulties are the modal voice-leading and the required romantic portrayal. Like other compositions of this genre, the emotional descriptions of each modal plateau should be clear. Like Seventh Sign, the melody should be played by a solo instrument – particularly the first 14 bars.


This composition was written for the composer’s daughter who as an infant was up many hours of the night “dancing” asher pediatrician would describe. This tune can be described as and interpreted as hardbop.


Use of headphones is suggested unless one has his or her computer connected to a stereo unit.

After reading the tune descriptions, listen to the demos with Jerry Coker's beautiful interpretations.

Perhaps, play along with demo tracks to learn some or Jerry's materials.

Then of course, select the play along tracks of choice, and play along!

And, I probably should not suggest this, but what the hay! After you get to a tune page, on a Mac with the cursor over the music graphic, hold down the control key and the mouse button, a menu will pop up and you can select save image to desktop. For the audio, you can use the app Wiretap Pro to record the music as it plays then save the track to whatever format you like, AIFF is what you need to burn the tracks to CD. Try to be honest about it all!!! Happy Holidays!!

Ron Miller, Nov. 2009 to the top