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Three note voicing in root position with “Satin Doll”

Three note voicing in root position with "Satin Doll"
Stride piano is a very specific way of playing in root position and dates back to an earlier era. It’s not really how most people would play tunes in root position today. So let’s have a look at that and one of the key ingredients for getting started is 3 note voicings. But before we look at 3 note voicings, let’s look at 2 note voicings. What I am going to do is use the wonderful standard of Duke Ellington called “Satin Doll”. I guess if you played in a jam session then after a blues and rhythm changes, “Satin Doll” could well be the most frequently used vehicle.
As a matter of fact, I had a gig yesterday with the great Dave Horler, a trombonist - a British trombonist, although he has spent most of his career in Germany playing with the WDR radio big band in Cologne. He’s a wonderful valve trombonist, a good friend of Bob Brookmeyer, probably the finest in the world.
Dave is brother of John Horler, the superb British jazz pianist who probably is closest in style to Bill Evans of any current jazz pianists. Anyway, we played “Satin Doll”, so it shows you that it’s still in frequent use. I’ll say a little bit more about how we played it in the next section. In this section I want to look at this tune using predominantly 3 note voicings. First of all, it’s a 32 bar structure AABA. It’s in C. I’ve written out for you a version of the tune and a version of the chords.
I think if you were to look in any resource of jazz for this tune you’d find probably that the tune differed and the chords, definitely, would differ. In particular, the chords that go in the seventh and eighth bar. For example, in my first time bar - the end of the first A - I’ve put split bars with the chords C7, D minor7 in bar 7 and E minor7, A7 in bar 8. That’s a choice and one can play it.
I’ve put it in parentheses because there are other choices. Actually, it isn’t what I play. I’ll show you what I play a bit later. Similarly, in the second time bar C7, D minor7, E flat diminished7, E minor7 to get you to the middle 8. Then in the middle 8 - which is the 3rd and 4th line of the music - in bars 3 and 4 again F major7 is the predominant chord that lasts for 2 bars,
but I’ve put in some transitional chords there: G minor7, A flat diminished 7, A minor7 and similarly at the end of the middle 8 in bars 7 and 8 of the middle 8 - that is bars 17 and 18 - I’ve put in some more choices. Just be warned, if you look anywhere else the chords will almost definitely differ and the tune may even differ fractionally. Let me play this now using 2 note voicings - that is to say I’m just going to play open sevenths in the left hand Here’s the tune. 1,2,3,4
As you hear, it sounds pretty empty. The reason it sounds pretty empty is that the third is missing from the chord. So you might say, well why don’t you just play seventh tenths and the answer is that I can’t - at least, I can’t without rolling. Take a seventh tenth. I can probably play C7. I can probably play F7, but I don’t think I can play any of the others, even G7 - ah, it’s a real stretch to get it there and probably if I did it in a real situation I’d roll the chord. So what we do is we put the tenth in - the third - with the right hand.
That is the first 2 chords, and the next 2 chords, and then we put the tune over the top like this.
Second A
Then we get to the middle 8. Now the middle 8 is going to be a real stretch because either I’ve got to play the seventh tenth in the left hand or in the right hand. I can probably do it slightly more easily in the right hand. A big stretch here - I can just about do it.
played with some hesitation. OK, so you can hear that that sounds harmonically as though you’ve got the complete chord there - which of course you have with a seventh tenth. The advantage of the seventh is that is a technique you can use for improvising. Of course, you can use 3 note voicings as well, but it’s easier if you just want to run a single line in the right hand and you can just play open sevenths in the left hand. Maybe if you can get the third in the right hand it will sound OK. For example, like this 1,2,3,4
and so on. Open sevenths enable you to do some improvising and 3 note voicings enable you to get the full harmonic contact, at least in terms of roots, sevenths and tenths. You can apply 3 note voicings to the other standards we have looked at. It would be a good exercise to try it with some of the others.

Using first the root and seventh and then adding the third to play three note voicing in root position for the jazz standard “Satin Doll”.

You can download the chart for “Satin Doll” in PDF format at the bottom of this step.

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