Learn Jazz Standards is a website for all instrumentalists, and even vocalists; however, given that piano is my primary instrument, I will occasionally put some piano articles up. Also, piano is the most useful instrument for all musicians. There is a reason that all music majors take “piano proficiency” rather than “banjo proficiency!” All jazz musicians should study harmony on the piano.
In my opinion, one of the best ways to teach jazz piano is to teach voicings first. If students learn good jazz voicings for the left hand and for both hands, then a good jazz sound will follow. Of course, soloing is a big part of the equation, but good voicings help define the sound of jazz. I like to help students by giving them left-hand voicings to use while they are soloing. I may post more of these some other time, but here is a chart of voicings to use for the tune St. Thomas by a student jazz pianist. Even pros use these voicings; they just have more of them in their tool belt!
Some of these voicings are not exactly what the chord “calls for.” For example, I use a C6/9 voicings for the first chord instead of CMaj7. These sounds are interchangeable. Where it calls for D-7, I use FACE, which is a rootless voicings D-9. This is a more desirable sound in the style. Also, I use FABE for G7, which is a rootless G13. Adding extensions helps create the right sounds. I seldom use straight 7 chords with no 9th, 11ths, or 13ths. When you read a fakebook, try adding these extensions to all chords. You can use natural 9ths, and 13ths on all chords. You can use 11ths on minor and m7b5 chords (half-diminished). It’s sometimes useful to use alterations, as with the A7 in St. Thomas. I use GBbC#F, which is an A7b9b13. Altering the dominant 7th chord before a minor chord is very common, although you can alter any dominant 7th chords with a b9, #9, #11, or b13.
Enjoy the handout!
To Learn St. Thomas click: St. Thomas
For Sonny Rollins’ solo transcription of St. Thomas, click: https://www.learnjazzstandards.com/learning-jazz/st-thomas-sonny-rollins-solo-transcription/