As part of Miles Davis’ second great quartet in the mid ’60s, Herbie Hancock became one of the most influential and important jazz pianists of all time. Ex. 4 is played over changes similar to “Autumn Leaves” and is inspired by the big two-handed comping Hancock would occasionally employ to create a powerful sound. The majority of the chords comprise upper extensions, and you’ll find very few roots. This passage starts with mostly wide voicings, and then shifts to closer, Evans-style voicings in the second half.
At 77, Herbie Hancock isn’t pulling any punches—even when it comes to performing one of his most well-known tunes, “Cantaloupe Island.” Check out the telepathic interplay between Hancock and bassist James Genus during a recent appearance on Austin City Limits.
Hancock explored the soulful and funky side of jazz as well. Ex. 5 shows how he might vamp on bluesy F Dorian (F–G–Ab–Bb–C–D–Eb) figures. Guitarists play similar patterns, but often neglect the high note, which of course is the note to omit if you are already at the brink of tendonitis!
Another tremendously influential pianist to emerge in the ’60s was McCoy Tyner, and he was integral to the sound of many classic albums of the era, both as a leader and sideman. He played with a host of greats, including Joe Henderson, Art Blakey, Grant Green, and Freddie Hubbard, and recorded more than a dozen albums with John Coltrane. In the spirit of Tyner’s playing on Coltrane’s epic A Love Supreme, Ex. 6 shows how he might perform a Bb minor blues. The rootless and tightly spaced voicings are quite playable on piano, but require a considerable stretch on the guitar. Stack the deck in your favor: Bring the guitar neck up high, so that there’s at least a 45-degree angle, keep your fretting-hand’s thumb low on the back of the neck so your fingers can open as wide as possible. If these voicings are too uncomfortable to execute, a reasonable workaround is to edit out the lowest note.
Tyner’s playing is indelibly connected to the music of John Coltrane. Hang in for the whole 14-plus minutes to hear some of Tyner’s trademark modal work ... oh, and of course, Coltrane’s bigger-than-life tone.
When people discuss Tyner’s playing, they often mention his use of quartal chords. These harmonies are simply stacked fourths, rather than thirds. So, instead of rendering a C chord as a triad consisting of C–E–G, the quartal version would be C–F–B (or Bb). In practical terms, Tyner would explore the options of stacking fourths within a mode, much like a harmonized scale, though at times he would add passing chords and side-slipping as transitions and approaches. Ex. 7 is a simple passage he might use in an F minor setting. Notice the familiar F5 power chord that sets the stage.
Chick Corea’s playing incorporates elements of Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner combined with an uncanny rhythmic precision. Ex. 8 shows how he’d approach a C minor blues using a host of quartal chords and a harmonically dense final phrase.