11 oct. 2006

Favorite piano players

1. Bud Powell

He invented a basic pattern of playing jazz piano, followed by many since, yet his own playing is all his own--unmistakeably his. Those right hand, logically organized lines against left-hand, sporadic chords. I could listen to Bud all day. In fact, I do listen to Bud all day.

2. Thelonious Monk

He really belongs on another list--the composer / band leader / "force in jazz" list. I do love his playing too, of course. His roots are really in the strike tradition, yet he also was second to one in the bebop style.

3. Art Tatum

He was the greatest, pianistically speaking. I can't get enough of his Capitol solo sides. He really should be number one, but then Bud and Monk would have had to have been two and three. That wouldn't have worked either.

4. Teddy Wilson

He had those great right-hand runs before Bud Powell. I like that style better than the all over the place pianisti style. What incomparable elegance behind Billie Holiday or Benny Goodman.

5. Bill Evans

He invented the next big style after Bud. The it was Herbie Hancock and Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea. There really hasn't been a stylistic influence as great since him.

6. Red Garland

I like him better than any pianist of this particular niche--between Bud and Bill Evans that is. His soloes are so logical that I tend to memorize them note by note. I like how he switches to octaves in the later choruses of a solo.

7. Cecil Taylor

It's interesting that he is the only really major piano player among the free jazz movement.

8. Earl Hines

I love his rhythmic feel--so modern for his period.

9. Sonny Clark

I love that straight-ahead late bop feel, coming out of Bud once again.

10. Count Basie

That minimalist feel behind his band. He never tried to do too much!

11. Nat Cole

There's that ultra-cool, "tasty" feel that inspired Ray Charles and Oscar Peterson. Once he started singing his piano playing was eclipsed.

12. Oscar Peterson

Then there's that showboat, maximal feel, out of Tatum and Cole. Not always in the best of taste, but so exuberant you have to like it on some level.

There are so many others: Flanagan, Ellington, Hancock, Jamal, Hank Jones, Smith, Waller, Williams, Richie Powell, Guaraldi, McKenna... I won't get into fist fights about anyone--after the top five at least! As with the bass players, I do like relatively "anonymous" or "generic" players, those who simply play unobtrusively but without a distinctive personal style in whatever period style.

8 comentarios:

Bob dijo...

For me, Horace Silver comes in at about five. And Jelly Roll Morton would make the top dozen.

I completely agree with your take on Oscar Peterson. He's thrilling even when he's cheap!

Jonathan dijo...

Yes. Horace Silver is a good one. Gonzalo Rubalcaba. And I forgot Oscar Pettiford on my bass list!

Bob dijo...

I think why Bud Powell has been more influential is that his style is easier to imitate: single notes from the right hand, chords here and there from the left. Bill Evans constructs solos with all ten fingers. As an amateur jazz piano player, I know that going with BP's style is the temptation. I try to learn from Evans, and have been working and reworking Waltz For Debbie for about 25 years, but his conception of piano-playing is too complex for me, ever, really, to play. (It is not impossible to play, however, in the same way that Monk's is.)

Teddy Wilson is the most beautiful piano player of them all, is what I think whenever I listen to him.

z. barocas dijo...

Since Horace Silver already came up, I'll add Wynton Kelly.

Jonathan dijo...

I wouldn't put Kelly on my favorites list. He's a fine player, but I'd much rather hear Red Garland, all things being equal.

Rod dijo...

Hi Jonathan-- Good list-- but how bout Andrew Hill?? I've come to the point where I consider him next to Monk. & re Cecil-- Marilyn Crispell perhaps the other great free player tho I wouldn't put her, or anyone, next to Taylor.

Jonathan dijo...

For some reason I have been radically underexposed to Andrew Hill. It's a serious gap in my listening, I'll admit.

Herb Levy dijo...

Hi Jonathan,

I'm late getting to this, but I'll second Hill as a pianist/composer to pay a LOT of attention to.

Further on the lack of "really major piano player(s) among the free jazz movement", note that very few pianists at the time were leading their own bands. Sun Ra is perhaps the only other "avant garde" pianist with virtually no history of performing as a sideman in groups led by other players. And, for better or worse, Ra is usually considered as more of a bandleader & composer than as a pianist.

There are a couple of other reasons that Taylor may seem like the main pianist of free jazz. The first is most obvious, he didn't quit and he continued to develop.

Many other pianists playing in free jazz either went on to do other kinds of jazz (Don Pullen may be the best example of this); some continued to play as they had but aspects of their styles became part of accepted mainstream practice (Paul Bley and McCoy Tyner may be the best examples of this); others, for one reason or another, left the business altogether (Andrew Hill and Alice Coltrane are examples of this and, I'm happy to say both have returned to playing again).

And, of course, since a lot of free jazz was about getting rid of repeating harmonic structures, in many bands there simply wasn't much for a pianist to do.