5 Legendary Jazz Pianists You Should Listen To

By Jordan Wei​

There are many great jazz pianists out there, from the likes of Monk to McCoy; with each one of them having their own unique style and flair. And navigating through a plethora of individuals can be quite overwhelming at 1st, especially when it comes to deciding who to study. So to help you out, I’ve shortlisted 5 legendary jazz pianists who’ve made such an impact in jazz, you’d be crazy not to listen to them.

1. Art Tatum

The original legend. The pianist whom all other pianists revered and feared. People who had never heard him play before were convinced that there were two pianists playing on his recordings. Just check out this insane stride piano solo on “Tiger Rag”

Fats Waller once said about Tatum, “I only play the piano, but tonight God is in the house”. And rightly so, because his lethal combination of virtuosity and harmonic innovation are unmatched to this day.

Art Tatum - Tiger Rag

2. Oscar Peterson

If Art Tatum was raw genius, then Oscar Peterson was pure precision. Another monster in the jazz world, Oscar knew how to make every note count and play melodically at breakneck speeds. Watch him execute this phenomenal piano solo below on “Sweet Georgia Brown” with flawless mastery. Perfection in one minute and every other time he played.

Oscar Peterson - Sweet Georgia Brown

3. Herbie Hancock

When one talks about jazz harmony, one of the 1st people that comes to mind is Herbie Hancock. Herbie re-defined the role of a traditional jazz pianist and wasn’t afraid to push the stylistic and harmonic boundaries. His experiments across different genres make him one of jazz’s most versatile pianists. Here is his piano solo on “Dolphin Dance” from 1984. Check out that sound. PHAT!

Herbie Hancock - Dolphin Dance

4. Chick Corea

Another giant in the jazz world, Chick Corea’s compositions have become a staple for many jazz musicians today. With over 20 Grammy Awards, Chick’s style ranges from Latin to Jazz Fusion and even Classical music. His distinct lyricism in his solos are filled with chromaticism, diminished scales and quick melodic flourishes. Just take a look at one of his most famous tunes “Spain” and revel in its musical ecstasy.

Chick Corea - Spain

5. Keith Jarrett

Once you get past the loud vocalizations inherent to Keith Jarrett’s solos, you will find a treasure trove of improvisatory content. Whether it’s the single note right hand lines or the country, gospel and reggae influences, you’re bound to hear something pleasant and unexpected. Where other jazz pianists usually choose to showcase their originals or create re-arrangements of tunes in a performance, Jarrett’s decision to perform basic Jazz Standards broke down many of the preconceptions of how they should be played. And this video below demonstrates just how these classic tunes turn out when given the Jarrett touch.

Keith Jarrett - All the things you are

Concluding Thoughts

So there you have it. 5 legendary jazz pianists you ought to listen to in order to get better. Who are your personal favourites? Are any of them on this list? More awesome pianists like Powell, Evans, Brubeck, Tristano and Mehldau? Comment below to let me know!

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Robert Polevoi - August 23, 2020 Reply

Jelly Roll Morton
Earl Hines
Fats Waller
Art Tatum
Bud Powell

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