Thank you for this wonderful post! I discovered James' playing through one of my favorite Greg Osby albums, "Art Forum".
And I have to ask, what was that hip minor-11th voicing that you still use to this day?
Yes, and some others were wondering. It's a voicing that Williams uses in his tunes "Alter Ego" and "Arioso". It's essentially two perfect 5ths in the left hand, and then the minor third in the thumb of the right hand, and then a triad from the minor 7th of the root of the minor 11th chord. So if the chord was F-11, the voicing would be F,C,G,Ab,Eb,G,Bb. In numbers (which is the best way to think of it, because then you can automatically move it around to all keys), it's 1,5,9,b3,b7,9,11. Like so:
This voicing I have found to be useful in many situations. It's wide at the bottom and colorful at the top. The only note doubled is the 9th, but I think because one of the 9ths rubs against the 3rd, it's not so noticeable. The triad built on the b7 is what Mark Levine (author of The Jazz Piano Book) refers to as an upper structure. The triad is a recognizable sound, and it perhaps make upper extensions of chords more movable. For example, you could play the right hand notes closer together, and get a voicing that Geri Allen uses:
You can find many uses for the top part of this voicing. It sound great as a rootless voicing on the left hand. Stefon Harris uses this voicing, except he will put E in the bass, so it becomes a meatier version of Eb/E.
Let me know how you like these. I think it's good to have some pre-determined voicings, but if you read my interview with Kevin Hays, he talked about his use of scales in order to be more free in terms of generating new voicings all the time. My advice is to consult things like The Jazz Piano Book, or Dan Haerle's Jazz-Rock Voicings for the Contemporary Keyboard Player, and learn the rules, but then always look for ways to break them. The possibilities are infinite!