Jazz is caught, not taught!
So goes the cliché (although I believe this also applies to classical and other styles too). So much of the nuance, the energy, the essence and the inflection of piano music cannot be expressed away from the instrument, whether in words or using notation.
As I write this I am about to deliver a workshop entitled Introducing Jazz Piano for the Piano Teachers’ Course UK, where I am a guest tutor. And as I consider the point that listening to jazz piano playing must be our starting point, this raises the question, “where do we start?”
So to that end I’ve compiled this list of 20 seminal jazz pianists, with clips of their playing and a suggestion that you go on to more fully explore their recorded legacy.
Understand, these aren’t necessarily the 20 greatest jazz pianists of all time (and it isn’t, in any case, a competition!). However, they are all genuine greats, and between them they represent a wide range of styles and approaches within the very broad world of jazz music.
Dip in now, and keep coming back, because ongoing exposure to the genius of these players is the key to developing as a player and teacher of jazz music…
A History of Jazz Piano
I will introduce the 20 selected pianists chronologically by their date of birth, and “let the music do the talking” without further comment! Enjoy …
Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941)
Duke Ellington (1899-1974)
Earl Hines (1903-1983)
Fats Waller (1904-1943)
Count Basie (1904-1984)
Art Tatum (1909-1956)
Thelonious Monk (1917-1982)
Rubén González (1919-2003)
Dave Brubeck (1920-2012)
Errol Garner (1923-1977)
Bud Powell (1924-1966)
Oscar Peterson (1925-2007)
Bill Evans (1929-1908)
Ahmad Jamal (b.1930)
McCoy Tyner (b.1938)
Herbie Hancock (b.1940)
Chick Corea (b.1941)
Keith Jarrett (b.1945)
Esbjörn Svensson (1964-2008)
Brad Mehldau (b.1970)
Each of these artists has given the world an extraordinary legacy of recordings, which can be explored on CD, and via commercial streaming sites such as Apple Music and Spotify.
If you enjoyed this post, check out Another 20 Great Jazz Pianists
May you enjoy an exciting journey as you discover their treasures!
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