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Top 10 Jazz Pianist in History

Jazz pianists don’t always get the “commercial” recognition they should. But they do not cease to enjoy great prestige. Many of them have found world fame and Jazz is becoming more and more respected and demanded in the world of music. Above all it is necessary to note the strong boom of the Swing dance in all the cities of the world.
Many of the pianists we are going to cite and their work have been real milestones for music. They have broken the rules of modern harmony and changed the paradigms of music in their time. Today many of its themes are considered standard, authentic reference themes played by all modern music students on the planet.

Here’s our selection:

Thelonious Monk (1917-1982)

American pianist and founder of the Bebop movement. He is one of the most respected and referenced jazz composers in history.
During his musical career he came into contact with legendary musicians such as Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. He had episodes of drugs but they didn’t affect him to have a prolific career. At the end of his career he lived in retirement because of his mental problems.
Some of their themes are key standards in the history of Jazz. One of them is “Round About Midnight.” Next we leave you a recording where you can see him in person with his Thelonious Monk Quartet.

Thelonious Monk Quartet - 'Round Midnight

Bill Evans (1929-1980)

Bill Evans stands out as one of the key figures in Cool Jazz. Which was a style with more expressive phrases and less complex phrases and scales than with Bebop scales.
Bill Evans is sometimes accused of moving away from the black roots of Jazz and being too strict with his elitist composing rules. Bill Evans drinks directly from the expressionism of Debussy and Ravel.
He specialized in the formation of bass trios, piano and drums. Composing a special dialogue between them, fortunately there is a recording of him and George Russell playing the famed Concerto for Billy the Kid

Marian McPartland (1918-2013)

There are very good pianists throughout history, but unfortunately historical recognition has fallen rather on men in the world of Jazz. Although Maria McPartland did achieve notoriety and world fame in the world. In 2004 he received a Grammy in recognition of his career and his contribution to Jazz.

I travel all over the world, although I normally lived in the United States. When she was young she was accepted in London at the Guildhall School of Music and it is curious what they said about her in 1935 at the time of accepting her.

“Incredible enthusiasm, gift of God and a wonderful imagination.”

They also said at the time that her technique was not good…but she improved and improved until she became a master.

She had a passionate life in even being in World War II as a volunteer and where she had to learn accordion because there were no available. There she met her husband, a volunteer Chicago cornetist on a Jam, and then invited her to form a sextet with other musicians to entertain the troops.

Marian not only stood out for a time in her life, but for her continuous work for Jazz. In the 60’s she formed her own record label to promote undervalued Jazz musicians and from the 70’s onwards she toured half the world. Although he didn’t have a great musical reading, he played with symphony orchestras learning the subject by ear.

Here she is playing “In a Mist”.

Marian McPartland - In A Mist

Dave Brubeck (1920-2012)

Great musician and one of the top representatives of Cool Jazz (West Coast Jazz current) along with Bill Evans. Elegant and with touches of improvisation genius is one of the pianists who broke the boundaries of Jazz and reached a very wide audience.

With his faithful saxophonist Paul Desmond composed the ultra-famous Jazz standard “Take Five”.

Dave Brubeck - Take Five ( Original Video)


Bud Powell (1924-1966)

New Yorker by birth is one of the greatest exponents of Bebop. He was born into a family of musicians although he had a difficult childhood. Even his grandfather was a flamenco guitarist who trained in Cuba.

In 1944 he joins Cootie Williams’ orchestra, but the terrible schizophrenia hovers over him. Although in 1946 he returned to play and came into contact with Jazz Bebop, where he stood out as a fundamental figure playing with figures such as Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Mingus in a legendary concert held in Toronto, Canada.

Although he tried to reverse schizophrenia with electroshock sessions, he eventually fell into decline with the passage of time.

Video of Bud Powell in Paris in 1962:

Bud Powell - Anthropology (1962)


Duke Ellington (1899-1974)

Another genius born in Jazz City, New York. He is one of the Jazz musicians with the most prolific activity (he wrote more than 1000 compositions). Some of the greatest figures of Jazz have passed through their orchestras like the saxophonist Johnny Hodges.

Especially popular were his performances at the mythical Cotton Club in Harlem, where he reached national dimension as a musician throughout the United States.

His contribution to the orchestra and his charisma raised Jazz to equal its popularity to that of other musical genres. It was considered a true “Rock Star” in the United States.

Here’s one of his most popular songs from the album he did with John Coltrane “In a Sentimental Mood”.

Duke Ellington & John Coltrane - In a sentimental mood


Art Tatum (1909-1956)

Art Tatum was a musician born in Cleveland and ahead of his time. In the 1930s he set the tone for Bebop’s musicians to explore years later.

Almost blind since he was a child, Art Tatum with 6 years old was able to play songs by ear that were for duets without knowing that they had to be played by two interpreters. We are talking about some of the most technically gifted musicians of the 20th century.

He used to make his recordings without other musicians because it was difficult for them to follow his fast tempo and his harmonic changes. His piano solos have truly legendary improvisations.

Art Tatum -- Yesterdays


Chick Corea (Born in 1941)

American by birth is one of the greatest exponents of the birth of Jazz Fussion in the 1970s. He played with Miles Davis and it was with him that he began to lay the foundations of this genre. His career has followed a very parallel course to Herbie Hancock’s and they have even collaborated together.

Composer of several standards that today can be found in the reference book Real Book. The star quintet that he formed in 1996 with musicians like Kenny Garret in which they versioned Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk is especially noteworthy.

FREEDOM BAND Chick Corea, Kenny Garrett, Christian McBride, Roy Haynes Monk's Dream


Herbie Hancock (Born in 1940)

Like Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock collaborated with Miles Davis on Funk albums and is one of the most transgressive Jazz musicians who have experimented with all styles and genres. And that has provoked conflicting opinions about his person.

Hancock stands out as a virtuoso and creative in any style of Jazz but it is his experimentation with electronics that makes him a unique figure. Throughout his career he has experimented with synthesizers of all kinds and is a reference figure in Electric Jazz. World famous has written and performed the music of the film Round Midnight about Dexter Gordon.


Brad Mehldau (Born in 1970)

One of the young promises with the most projection today. We strongly recommend that you do not lose sight of this musician because he has given and will give much to talk about throughout history.

Virtuous and balanced, he is sometimes compared to Bill Evans but he does not like this comparison. He has developed an independence of hands and an extraterrestrial level rhythm.

We noticed him for this list because of his role on the tour with Joshua Redman. One of the best saxophonists there is today. Attention this boy!

Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau - Jazz in Marciac 2011


We hope you liked our selection, if so, don’t hesitate to share it to promote good music and culture. Thank you for reading us!

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Jaime Echagüe

Hi! I'm Jaime Echagüe, a musician and an authentic fan of musical instruments. With this blog I want to give general information about musical instruments in an easy, direct and honest way. I hope you enjoy my website and that you find it very useful.

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