Visually impaired since childhood, Tatum, born in Ohio, learned to play the piano by ear as a child and, blessed with perfect tone, quickly excelled at the instrument. Nat King Cole is known as a very talented and swing pianist, as well as for being a commercially successful but very sensitive singer. Art Tatum was the pianist who made other pianists leave him. Most of the greats have told stories of hearing Tatum for the first time and thinking that there were two pianists.
Despite a stellar career under his own name, his most important work could have been All Blues (Kind of Blue), by Miles Davis. In 1975, he produced something extraordinary with the Cologne Concert. This piano performance alone raised the bar of all the others and became the best-selling solo album in jazz history (reportedly 3.5 million copies). One of the reasons he was able to write such challenging pieces is that he could stretch from a 13 on the piano.
For example, you could stretch from a note of two to the next octave up with one hand. Franz Liszt was the 19th century equivalent of a modern superstar. The renowned virtuoso made people flock to his shows in droves in a frenzy that was colorfully called lisztomania. There was no shortage of virtuoso musicians and talented composers in the 19th century.
However, it cannot be denied that Chopin's originality and expressive style made him one of the elite characters. She was so good that she was one of the only female pianists to achieve such star status in the 19th century. At age 12, he was awarded a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London. At 17, he was already playing with the legendary conductor Sir Thomas Beecham.
Narrowing down a list to just 20 of the best jazz pianists isn't easy, as there are so many to choose from. Creative geniuses such as Art Tatum, Count Basie and Thelonious Monk are just a few of the names that come to mind, among many other greats from the rich history of jazz. Scott Joplin's style represents the first forerunner of jazz, in the form of classic ragtime. Born around 1868 in Texas, Joplin's works inhabit a unique space where classical music and African-American styles converge, such as work songs and the gospels.
Willie “The Lion” Smith, born in 1897 in New York, took jazz one step further, in the “stride” style, which involved rapid and rhythmic alterations in the accompaniment of the left hand. This style became popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Duke Ellington certainly did his best as a bandleader, but he was much more than that. He also wore the hats of a composer and pianist.
He lived from 1899 to 1974, and had a prolific and lengthy career that included more than 1000 compositions. Count Basie is a classic: his style is timeless and the sound of his piano playing in the center of a great band, unmistakable. Born the same year as Fats Waller, Count Basie is better known as a conductor, but his direction was directed from the piano. Therefore, the two roles of pianist and orchestra conductor are an integral part of his identity.
He was born in North Carolina in 1917, but spent most of his childhood in New York City. Monk's legacy lives on in the form of albums and tributes, as well as in an institute created in his honor, which supports jazz education in public schools. While his music in and of itself was very remarkable, so was his life, as he personally experienced a high degree of racism as a black musician born in Alabama in 1919 and who later performed in the southern states of the United States. Dave Brubeck, one of the contemporary favorites, unexpectedly arrived at the piano after attempting a formal course in zoology for the first time.
Born in 1920 in California, the son of a pianist and a rancher, Brubeck forged a diverse musical style that encompassed experimental techniques and unusual beats, rhythms and harmonies. Bill Evans, along with several other famous jazz pianists, would later follow in the musical footsteps of Bud Powell. Powell had mental health problems and drug abuse, which was sadly not uncommon in the bebop scene of this time. Alive from 1924 to 1966, Bud Powell's music took jazz piano in a new direction.
Originally from New Jersey, where he was born in 1929, Bill Evans is known for his harmonic prowess on the piano, as well as for his collaborations with other famous musicians such as Miles Davis and Chet Baker. Born in 1938 in Philadelphia, McCoy Tyner's career was defined by his contributions to the John Coltrane quartet. Ultimately, he used these experiences as a starting point, and continued to innovate even after leaving the quartet due to stylistic differences. Chick Corea has enjoyed a long and distinguished career.
Born in 1941 in Massachusetts, Korea is based on a lineage of famous jazz musicians, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell. While Wynton Kelly may always be known as the pianist of the “best jazz album of all time”, his performance with touches of blues, both as a sidekick and as a bandleader, adorns the record collections of many jazz fans. Don't forget that you can learn to play the piano compositions of all these artists in the piano learning application La Touche Musicale. With more than 100 recordings in her discography, she also acted as a mentor to future jazz piano star Thelonious Monk.
However, it will go a long way to revolutionizing the approach of the trio and the piano in the world of jazz. Count Basie may be best known as the famous leader of the big band that propelled jazz fans through the 1940s and beyond, but his piano skills also deserve time in the spotlight. It was after meeting John Coltrane in the early '60s and becoming deeply spiritual that she developed the freer style of jazz piano —first with her groups and then with her own name— that she is now famous for. This seminal album is one of the pillars of most of the lists of the best jazz albums and its iconic hit, “Take Five”, broke through the standard jazz repertoire.
He was a pioneer in comping (a way of playing chords to support the soloist) and his scarce but effective way of playing influenced generations of great jazz pianists. And, if you want to go deeper, don't miss our selection of the 10 most essential jazz piano albums. Born in 1904, Fats Waller is credited with laying some of the most important foundations of modern jazz piano. Brad Mehldau began to succeed on the New York jazz scene in the early 1990s, graduating from the New School around the same time as guitarist Peter Bernstein and pianist (and now owner of a jazz club) Spike Wilner.
In his teens, Jarrett learned jazz and mastered it, which led him to develop his strong interest in contemporary jazz. .