Awesome record Mark… all of McCoy’s 'Nights of Ballads & Blues’ is a brilliant album to study block chords.
Yes to answer your question he is using different types of block chords.
You can hear the ‘Red Garland’ voicing throughout - this is a rootless left hand voicing in the left hand and then he voices the melody in octaves in the right hand, usually an additional voice in between the octave too, try 4ths, 5ths or 6ths up from the bottom note.
Check out this lesson on how to construct the voicing: https://www.pianogroove.com/jazz-piano-lessons/red-garland-voicing-block-chord-tutorial/ - a great voicing to learn… it really packs a punch and I use it all of the the tune in my solos.
He also uses the 4 way close in places. Most of the recording, he is playing the right hand in rhythmic unison with the left hand - in a locked hands style.
Another section I like:
At 3:00 onwards - he plays a phrase and then repeats it at a higher pitch. This works particularly well because the harmony moves up by a whole step - D-7/G7 to E-7/A7. This technique is a great way to ‘build a narrative’ in your improv.
He then plays some blues material and does a wonderful 16th note run up and down the keyboard.
There is a wealth of material that could be transcribed here. From long improvised lines, to short little fills here and there. And of course the rhythms he uses in his comping and to support his improvisation.
Unfortunately, there is no other way to absorb rhythm and this kind of feel. You must listen and emulate the jazz greats!
Try the following Mark:
Learn the form with left hand voicings (not very difficult)
Play along with the iRealPro App, set the metronome to 120 bmp, go into the ‘mixer’ settings… turn off the piano, change the drums to ‘click on 2 & 4’ and then also up the repeats to 20.
The chords are on the screen but you can also use a lead sheet if you wish.
Cycle around just playing left hand voicngs until you are very comfortable with the form. Just place the left hand voicings on beat 1 to begin with. Then mix it up, play on multiple beats etc…
After perhaps a few days of doing this, then play it underneath McCoy’s recording… this will give you a very unique perspective on how he is phrasing, where he places the chords and where he adds fills.
Transcribe using your ears. You should be able to hear when he uses the distinctive Red Garland-esque voicings… for this, just continue to play the left hand voicings that you have been playing, but try to work out the octave he is playing above… and most importantly copy his rhythms, phrasing and articulation.
I’ve done some rough planning for the jazz standard tutorial on this tune and we will look in detail at:
Thanks for sharing Mark… I think it’s great for all students to have input into the jazz standard tutorials if they wish to, so that if there is a particular sound you want to learn about (like McCoy’s) we can then study and apply it in the lesson.