All the videos of the greatest jazz pianists
Legendary Jazz Pianists
Legendary Jazz Pianists
Since its beginnings in the early 20th century, the piano has always been an integral part of jazz. This is mainly due to the instrument’s ability to add both melody and harmony to a piece. It can also be used to play individual notes or full chords -- a quality that would become increasingly important in the history of jazz.
What we think of as early jazz piano is the stride style of playing popularized in places like Harlem and Philadelphia in the ‘20s and ‘30s. Fats Waller and Willie “The Lion” Smith are two of the main men behind stride. They helped develop the style during “cutting contests” at house parties and jam sessions. Essentially, stride pianists would compete to see who could add the most improvised flourish to jazz standards. Jazz elements like tension and release, syncopation, and rhythmic accents came out of the stride style.
Next came bebop in the ‘40s and ‘50s. For many, bebop is still the standard for jazz. Along with Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and Thelonious Monk, pianists such as Red Garland, Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck, Bud Powell, Bill Evans, and Ahmad Jamal would help create this revolutionary sound. Bebop is characterized by fast tempos, improvisation of harmony and melody, and the use of block chords. So it’s no surprise that pianists formerly familiar with the stride style quickly found ways to adapt their instrument to bebop. Bebop pianists are known for playing with exceptional virtuosity, riffing incredible rhythmic solos that often incorporated elements of polyphony. Piano became the main rhythmic base in bebop, making for a bold, bright sound that’s now familiar, but back then was a far cry from the blues-tinged jazz of the early 20th century.
By the beginning of the ‘60s, with the rise of other genres like funk, R&B, and rock, jazz began to change again. And once more, pianists were at the forefront of this movement. Pianists like Chick Corea, Horace Silver, Keith Jarrett, McCoy Tyner, and Herbie Hancock began experimenting with ways to meld jazz with their other musical interests. For some, this meant incorporating their classical training for a lush, orchestral sound with seamless harmonic transitions. For others, especially Corea, this meant pushing the envelope with atonality and different ways to play the piano. And particularly for Hancock, this meant melding funk, pop, hip-hop, and R&B for a completely new sound.
Subgenres like fusion jazz, free jazz, and hard bop became standard on the charts and in clubs around the country. It remains the same today. More than ever, jazz means incorporating your own personality and influences into jazz standards and original compositions. Though the initial elements like improvisation and syncopation are still there, jazz has grown in scope since its start nearly 100 years ago. And as you can see, jazz pianists have always been main players in these innovations.