As a teenager I had the privilege of having a piano lesson with Sonny Stitt. My teacher, Bernie Senesky, introduced him to me in a Toronto jazz bar. Upon learning I was a piano student he excitedly invited me up to the piano where he began to demonstrate how his friend Bub Powell played bebop chord voicings.
Here is what he showed me: Your right-hand plays the melody or solos while your left-hand comps the Be-bop shells of Root/seventh, or Root/third. Given the typical manner of jazz chord progressions, the left hand will often alternate between the two forms. For a complete PDF file of the left hand chords, click on this sentence.
The second great lesson came from my beloved Berklee piano teacher Dean Earl. He told me to play Charlie Parker solos simultaneously in both hands two octaves apart. This was an exercise to keep my left hand sharp. Years later it also gave me competency to solo in the left hand. You can see Bud Powell play Anthropology this way. During the solo Powell comps lightly in the left-hand using Sonny's thumbs.
Below are links to videos connected to this lesson.
Revised May 2024
You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.
I'm a professional pianist and music educator in West Toronto Ontario. I'm also a devoted percussionist and drum teacher.