4 Bill Evans Jazz Chords You Need To Know

Here’s a free jazz piano lesson featuring the awesome jazz chords of Bill Evans.

This particular lesson features a ii-V-i-IV (2-5-1-4) chord progression in a minor key.

These beautiful chords are very useful because you can use them in solo jazz piano arrangements and you can also use them to play behind other instrumentalists. They sound sweet too! (Video lesson, notation and jazz harmony tips below.)  

This is the second set of Bill Evans chords in our series. You can also check out the other Bill Evans chords lesson here.

The best place to start is to watch the video first.

jazz piano chords Bill Evans

2 Take Away Tip For This Jazz Lesson 

1. Bill Evans was a big fan of upper structure triads. He uses them in every chord in the chord progression.  Upper structure triads are extensions of the harmony (9’s, 11’s, and 13th’s) played in simple triads in the right hand.

  • For example, in measure 1 he plays a G major triad in the right hand over the Amin7(b5) measure.  This G chord functions as the 7,9, and 11 of the Amin7(b5).
  • Another example, in measure 2 he plays a Bb major triad in the right hand over the D7.  The Bb triad functions as the #9, b13, and root of the D7 chord.
  • If you want some more tips to understand how to use extensions on your chords then check out this jazz extensions lesson.

The basic idea is that you can take simple triads you already know and stack them on top of each other to create more complex chords. This is a powerful way to improve your jazz harmony.

2. Notice how the top notes of these chord progression only move by step.  One of the best ways to get smooth sounding chord progressions is to pay attention the voice leading of your top notes.

  • To put it simply….try to create a nice simple melody with the top notes of your chords.  If the top note of your chords moves too much from one chord to another it won’t sound very smooth.

Further Jazz Piano Resources

If you like these type of chords you can learn many more of them inside my Jazz Masters Method DVD. You can explore the DVD program right here.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this free jazz piano lesson.  Do you like the sounds of these chords? Do you find this style of jazz harmony interesting? Let us know about it by leaving a comment below.

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Steve Nixon