Herbie Hancock
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.

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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!

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McCoy Tyner
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.

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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.

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Chick Corea
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.

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