Ossip Gabrilowitsch, the renowned classical improvisor
of the early twentieth century, once commented that no
man could hope to subdue the piano, but he added, that
if it is approached with great affection and humility,
it sometimes gives back small moments of truth.
experienced those moments of truth
and is now recognized as the first modern jazz
pianist. He developed a style of rhythms, accents and
chord structures, in the mid
Twenties, that was then considered
Hines was an influential pianist and bandleader who
helped launch the careers of Dizzie Gillespie, Charlie
Parker, Sarah Vaughn, and Billy Eckstine.
professionally around 1921 in Pittsburgh. In 1923 Hines
moved to Chicago where...in 1926... he he met
Louis Armstrong at the local musician's union
hall and the two became friends. It was the melodic
improvisations of Louis Armstrong (on trumpet) that
inspired Hines to free his right hand from the
traditional mannerisms of ragtime and develop a new
style was essentially to create new melodies to fit the
dropped out of the Jazz scene in the early 1950's but
staged a major comeback in 1964 that lasted
through the rest of his career. Among his famous
compositions are "Rosetta," "Piano Man," A Monday Date"
and "Boogie Woogie on the St. Louis Blues."
Click here for Hines' St. Louis Blues
Other greats during the
- BOOGIE-WOOGIE: Jimmy
Top" Smith..."Cow-Cow" Davenport...Albert Ammons...Pete
Johnson...Meade Lux Lewis.
- POPULAR: Vincent
Lopez...Ohman and Arden...Vee Lawnhurst...Roy
- JAZZ: Willie
Lion" Smith...James P. Johndon..."Fats" Waller...Elmer
Weatherford...Arthur Schutt...Joe Sullivan...Art
SWING BASS PERIOD
Tatum, (1909-1956) who came from a musical
began studying and performing music at an early
age. His piano teacher, Overton G. Rainey, encouraged
him to use his talents pursuing a career in
classical music as a concert pianist. However, Tatum,
who was a follower of James P. Johnson and Fats Waller,
decided to enter the field of Jazz . Johnson and Waller
were the originators of the left-hand Stride
method...the beginning of Swing
At the age of
began his professional career playing interludes on a
Toledo radio station. He moved to New York in
1932. Tatum was well known for his competitive
Jam sessions with other
top pianists of the day.
Tatum was a pre-bop player
whose rhythm was rooted in stride and
swing. Because of his training in Classical
music, he could run right-hand scales at an almost
unbelievable pace. He became known as the Piano Players
"Player" by his peers. Tatum had a great influence on
Jazz because of his melodic and harmonic
Wilson and Tatum utilized the
innovations of the Harlem school which were particlarly
applicable to the left-hand structure. The first
organization of the "Scale-Tone Tenth System" was
developed by Wilson. A "Tenth" is a displaced third (of
a chord) played an octave higher. The left hand span is
ten notes not rolled or broken.
The system connected
two root position chords with long bass lines rich in
harmonic implication...of a more complicated nature
than that employed by contemporary pianists.(John
Wilson had the distinction of being a
member of the first interracial ensemble to perform in
puplic when he was hired by Benny Goodman...along with
Lionel Hampton for his small combo which also included
drummer Gene Krupa.
Click here for Tatums' "Aint Misbehavin".
Other greats during
the 1930's were:
- JAZZ: Mary Lou
Williams...Count Basie...Jess Stacy...Claude
- POPULAR: Eddie Duchin...Henry
King...Lee Sims...Maurice Rocco...Ray Noble...Lennie
From "Swing and Early
Progresive Piano Styles":John Mehegan said..."Wilson
(Teddy) was primarily concerned with form and
architecture; Tatum with an incredible content of new
ideas and feelings which were to pave the way for
succeeding developments. Both Wilson and Tatum carried
the evolution of swing-bass through probably a century
of classical harmony idioms only to hear the entire
ediface topple before their ears under the smashing
assault of Bud Powell, Nat Cole and Thelonious
Earl "Bud" Powell (1924 -
Bud Powell ( page at Warner Bros. JazzSpace )
"I wish [be-bop] had been given a name more in keeping
with the seriousness of purpose." - Earl Bud Powell
"Powell is one of the key figures in the creation of
the music that came to be known as bebop, and at his
best he was a pianist of unrivaled brilliance. His
unique style was an amalgam of his own favourite piano
players - Billy Kyle, Teddy Wilson, Earl Hines and Art
His total emotional commitment, at times
quite ferocious, with an unrelenting sense of urgency,
most particularly on the up-tempo numbers, comes
through on every recording he ever made, so much so
that the listener cannot remain indifferent." - Mike
Nat "King" Cole.
Born 3/17/1917 in Montgomery, AL-
Died 2/15/1965 in Santa Monica, CA
Nat King Cole had two overlapping careers. He was one
of the truly great swing pianists, inspired by Earl
Hines and having a big influence on Oscar Peterson. And
he was a superb pop ballad singer whose great
commercial success in that field unfortunately resulted
in him greatly de-emphasizing his piano after 1949.
Nat Cole grew up in Chicago and by the time he was 12
he was playing organ and singing in church. After
making his recording debut with Eddie Cole's Solid
Swingers in 1936, he left Chicago and settled in Los
Angeles where he put together a trio with guitarist
Oscar Moore and bassist Wesley Prince and eventually
settled in for a long residency in Hollywood.
time the Trio had its first opportunity to record for
Decca, in December 1940, Nat King Cole had begun
singing. "Sweet Lorraine" resulted from that session
and the Trio soon became quite popular. In future years
Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson and Ahmad Jamal would all
form piano/guitar/bass combos inspired by Cole's group.
Nat Cole recorded a great deal of exciting jazz during
the 1940s. However his career changed permanently in
early 1950 with the recording of "Mona Lisa" which
became a number one hit. Suddenly Nat King Cole became
famous to the nonjazz public as a singer, and many new
fans never realized that he also played piano! During
the 1950s and '60s he mostly recorded pop ballads
although there were a few exceptions (including 1956's
After Midnight album) and he never lost his ability to
play stimulating jazz.
The world mourned Nat King
Cole's death from lung cancer in early 1965 at age 47.
~ Scott Yanow,(abridged) All-Music Guide.
Thelonious Sphere Monk
Born 10/10/1917 in Rocky Mount, NC
Died 2/17/1982 in Weehawken, NJ
The most important jazz musicians are the ones who are
successful in creating their own original world of
music with its own rules, logic and surprises.
Thelonious Monk, who was criticized by observers who
failed to listen to his music on its own terms,
suffered through a decade of neglect before he was
suddenly acclaimed as a genius.
Thelonious Monk grew up in New York, started playing
piano when he was around five and had his first job
touring as an accompanist to an evangelist. He was
inspired by the Harlem stride pianists ( James P.
Johnson was a neighbor) and vestiges of that idiom can
be heard in his later unaccompanied solos. However when
he was playing in the house band of Minton's Playhouse
during 1940-43, Monk was searching for his own
The 1945-54 period was very difficult for Thelonious
Monk. Because he left a lot of space in his rhythmic
solos and had an unusual technique, many people thought
that he was an inferior pianist. His compositions were
so advanced that the lazier bebop players (although not
Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker) assumed that he was
crazy. And Thelonious Monk's name, appearance (he liked
funny hats) and personality (an occasionally
uncommunicative introvert) helped to brand him as some
kind of nut.
In 1973 he suddenly retired.
Monk was suffering from mental illness.
Some of Thelonious Monk's songs became standards early
on, most notably "'Round Midnight," "Straight No
Chaser," "52nd Street Theme" and "Blue Monk,". (
Scott Yanow, All-Music Guide...abridged)
- George Shearing...Horace
Silver...Erroll Garner...Duke Ellington...Lennie
Carle...Carmen Cavallero...Jan August...Mel
1950's and '60's
Bebop Styles...New Improvisations.
Oscar Emmanuel Peterson (1925- )
born in Montreal, Quebec
began playing trumpet and piano at age five, but
abandoned the trumpet at age seven.He formed his first
trio in 1947, which began weekly radio broadcasts from
Montreal's Alberta Lounge. In 1949 he met jazz
impresario Norman Granz, who became his manager.
Granz brought Peterson to the United States for a 1949
concert in Carnegie Hall, followed by two tours with
Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic.
launched a new trio in 1953 with American bassist Ray
Brown and American guitarist Herb Ellis. Ellis left the
trio in 1959 and was replaced by a drummer, Ed Thigpen.
This trio lasted until 1965.
has won seven Grammy awards (1974, 1975, 1978, 1979,
and 2 in 1990, 1991). He was greatly
influenced by Nat "King" Cole, Art Tatum, Bud Powell,
and Charlie Parker.
Bill Evans (Aug.
16,1929-Sept. 15, 1980)
"I believe in things that are developed through hard
work. I always like people who have developed long and
hard, especially through introspection and a lot of
dedication. I think what they arrive at is usually a
much deeper and more beautiful thing than the person
who seems to have that ability and fluidity from the
beginning. I say this because it's a good message to
give to young talents who feel as I used to."
- Bill Evans
excerpted from Contemporary Keyboard, January
William John Evans was born August 16, 1929, in
Plainfield, New Jersey. Bill's father, of Welsh
descent, grew up in Philadelphia. His mother, whose
maiden name was Siroka, was of Russian heritage.
Bill had an older brother,
Harry Evans Jr,. Both sons were encouraged to pursue
music in spite of the fact that neither parent played
an instrument. Since Harry was studying piano, the
younger Bill was encouraged to take up the violin. When
Harry's piano teacher came to the house to give
lessons, Bill would stand by out of sight and listen.
When the lesson was finished, Bill would go to the
piano and play what he had heard, not yet knowing how
to read a note of music. It became apparent that Bill
would also need piano lessons and the violin was put in
In addition to playing his brother's
classical repertoire by ear, Bill would improvise at
the piano, often imitating the dance and big band music
he heard on the radio. Although Bill Evans never
overcame his problem with drug addiction...and died at
a relatively young age...his contribution to
progressive jazz will never be forgotten.
MARIAN McPARTLAND:b. Marian Margaret Turner, 20
March 1920, Windsor, Berkshire, England. Prior to World
War II, McPartland played British music halls as a
member of a four-piano group led by Billy Mayer. While
touring with ENSA (the British equivalent of America's
USO), she met and married the great trumpet player
At the end of the war she went to
the USA with her husband, quickly establishing a
reputation in her own right. During the late 40s and
throughout the following decade, she worked steadily,
usually leading a trio, holding down several long
residencies, notably an eight-year spell at the Hickory
During the 60s and 70s she developed a
long-lasting interest in education, established her own
recording company, Halcyon Records, performed
extensively in clubs and at festivals and also began
parallel careers as a writer and broadcaster on
A very gifted pianist, rhythmically
near-perfect and with a seemingly endless capacity for
intelligent improvising, her long-running radio show,
Piano Jazz, has helped establish her as one of the
best-known jazz artists in America. Although relatively
little known in the country of her birth, McPartland
continues to prove herself to be one of the outstanding
pianists in jazz.
A collection of her articles on
jazz, "All in Good Time," was published in 1987. Much
career is devoted to education. McPartland believes
that PIANO JAZZ provides the perfect forum for reaching
out to both the jazz aficionado and the novice. She
also tirelessly travels the country giving lectures,
master classes and concerts for colleges and
b. David Warren Brubeck, 6 December 1920,
California, USA. Initially taught piano by his mother,
Brubeck showed an immediate flair for the instrument,
and was performing with local professional jazz groups
throughout northern California at the age of 15 while
still at high school.
Enrolling at the College of
Pacific in Stockton, California, as a veterinary major,
he transferred to the music conservatory at the
suggestion of his college advisor. His involvement in
jazz continued by establishing a 12-piece band, but
most of his time was spent in the study of theory and
After he graduated from Pacific,
decided to continue his formal classical training. His
studying was interrupted by military service in World
War II. Returning from Europe in 1946, he went to Mills
College as a graduate student under the tutorship of
Darius Milhaud, and at about this time he formed his
first serious jazz group - the Jazz Workshop Ensemble,
an eight-piece unit that recorded some sessions, the
results of which were issued three years later on
Fantasy Records as the Dave Brubeck Octet.
himself primarily as a composer rather than a pianist,
Brubeck, in his own solos, tended to rely too much on
his ability to work in complex time-signatures (often
two at once). His work in the field of composition has
produced over 300 pieces, including several jazz
standards such as the magnificent 'Blue Rondo A La
Turk', as well as 'In Your Own Sweet Way' and 'The
b. Fritz Jones, (a.k.a. Ahmad Jamal) 2 July
1930, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. A professional
pianist from before his teenage years, Jamal (who
changed his name in the early 50s) managed to break
through to a wider audience than most jazz artists. His
trio work produced many excellent recordings and his
accompanists included Israel Crosby.
influential of his advocates was Miles Davis, who
recognized Jamal's interesting rhythmic concepts as
being something which he could incorporate into his own
work. Jamal worked extensively in the USA throughout
the 60s, 70s and 80s, usually in trio format but
occasionally with larger backing for record dates, and
also appeared with Gary Burton.
Jamal is an
important figure among mainstream pianists and their
post-bop successors, mainly as a result of the indirect
influence he has had through Davis. A lyrical, gently
swinging musician, Jamal's playing is a constant
Other greats of
the 1950's and'60's:
- Hampton Hawes...Don
- Andre Previn...Peter
...AND THE BEAT GOES ON. Although this site
emphasizes the history of traditional jazz the
piano artists of the past 20 years keep contributing to
the language of IMPROVISATION.
- Herbie Hancock
- Muhal Richard Abrams
- Diana Krall