Who is the Best Modern Jazz Pianist?

If you're looking for a list of the top

jazz pianists

, Herbie Hancock is almost always at the top. Brad Mehldau, from Jacksonville, Florida, is one of the most renowned contemporary jazz pianists. His style is a unique blend of influences from pop, rock, folk, classical, bebop, country, and even electronic music, all inspired by the lyricism of Bill Evans and the virtuosic improvisation of Keith Jarrett. His long-standing piano trio has also pushed boundaries with their collective improvisation and eclectic repertoire. The late Sir George Shearing, born in London and blind from birth, showed an aptitude for piano and accordion at an early age.

In the 1970s, Keith Jarrett at ECM Records developed a lyrical style and released an improvised solo recital called The Köln Concert which set a new standard for unaccompanied jazz piano. Tatum was a blind genius who created a densely polyphonic and sophisticated piano style before bebop, merging stride with swing. He is undoubtedly one of the best jazz pianists in history. Duke Ellington played one of the most beautiful jazz piano solos in “In a Sentimental Mood with Coltrane”. Thomas “Fats” Waller was a New York native who contributed to the evolution of the highly rhythmic stride style.

Oscar Peterson was a Canadian jazz pianist with an extravagant and virtuosic striding style reminiscent of Art Tatum and is considered one of the best jazz pianists of all time. Gospel music left an indelible mark on Bobby Timmons and his music. He wrote classic songs such as “Moanin'”, “This Here” and “Dat Dere” which earned him a place among the best jazz pianists for laying the foundations of soul jazz in the late '50s and early '60s. Horace Silver merged jazz with rhythm'n'blues and gospel music to create a distinctive style of soul jazz. Ethan Iverson from The Bad Plus is also a scholar of jazz history. He has refined what Keith Jarrett and others have presented before him to set the standard for modern jazz piano.

He also experimented with multitrack recording in the early 1950s, something that most jazz musicians considered anathema, overdubbing improvised piano parts. Although there are no recordings of Scott Joplin, his status as one of the best jazz pianists in history is assured due to piano rolls and scores which illustrate his unique style which influenced James P. Johnson. As one of the founding members of The Modern Jazz Quartet, John Lewis was an influential musician whose shiny, staccato piano style was indebted to Count Basie and saxophonist Lester Young.