Who is the Greatest Jazz Pianist of All Time?

Jazz music has been around for over a century, and in that time, many talented pianists have made their mark on the genre. From Nat King Cole to Thelonious Monk, there have been countless jazz pianists who have left an indelible impression on the music world. But who is considered the greatest jazz pianist of all time? Ahmad Jamal is often cited as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. His 1958 live album, featuring bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier, was a huge success and remained on the best-selling charts for more than two years.

His influence can be heard in the work of many other jazz legends, such as Oscar Peterson and Wynton Kelly. Fats Waller is another name that often comes up when discussing the greatest jazz pianists. He was known for his showmanship, confidence, and enthusiasm for life. He laid some of the most important foundations of modern jazz piano and his influence can still be heard today.

Lou Williams was one of the first great female success stories in jazz. At just nine years old, she began her career in 1922 and was one of only three women to appear in Art Kane's iconic photograph, A Great Day in Harlem. Her piano playing was characterized by her unique style and her ability to blend different musical influences. McCoy Tyner is best known for his role in John Coltrane's great quartet of the 1960s.

His 1967 debut album featured him alongside Joe Henderson, Ron Carter, and Elvin Jones. It included the intense modal jazz classic “Passion Dance”. Tyner's influence can be heard in many modern jazz pianists. Chick Corea began his career in a pure jazz environment in the mid-1960s, accompanying artists such as Sonny Stitt and Blue Mitchell.

His 1968 album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs was a huge success and is considered one of the most important albums in jazz history. Brad Mehldau began to make a name for himself on the New York jazz scene in the early 1990s. His trio with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard has performed post-1960s rock and pop songs along with original compositions and songbook standards. Errol Garner was known for his strong piano playing which grew out of the initial stride style but quickly became something much more unique.

His octaves with the right hand, chords and vocals in block, and interpretation behind the rhythm were distinctive marks of his style. Oscar Peterson is another name that often comes up when discussing great jazz pianists. He began as a pianist for R&B, perhaps where he developed his characteristic “happy” style. He worked with many of the jazz greats in the 1950s such as Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Griffin, and Sonny Rollins.

His piano trio albums from the early 1960s are textbook examples of his subtle and hard songwriting style. Count Basie may be best known as the leader of a big band that propelled jazz fans through the 1940s and beyond, but his piano skills also deserve recognition. Keith Jarrett first attracted attention in the mid-1960s when he was a young sidekick for Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Dave Brubeck is considered one of the great pioneers of cool jazz. His 1959 album Time Out, released by Columbia Records, was the first jazz album to sell more than a million copies and featured Brubeck alongside alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright on bass, and Joe Morello on drums. Thelonious Monk played a decisive role in the birth of bebop. His third solo piano album includes originals and standards and shows that despite its modernism his playing was deeply related to stride pianists from the 1920s and 1930s. When it comes to naming the greatest jazz pianist of all time, there are many contenders who could make a claim for this title.

From Nat King Cole to Thelonious Monk, each artist has left an indelible mark on jazz music that will never be forgotten.