Best Jazz Pianists

Here are the best jazz pianists from the modern jazz era with videos demonstrating their amazing live playing. 

Art Tatum

One of the most virtuostic jazz pianists of all time, Art Tatum was so brilliant and ahead of his time that his influence on modern jazz pianists includes everyone else on this list and continues to influence jazz piano players today. Despite being blind in one eye and nearly blind in the other, Tatum took the stride piano style and developed it with an unheard sense of harmonic inventiveness mixed with flawless piano technique. He creatively interpreted standard songs while running circles around the basic melodies in each hand in rapid-fire style. Here you can see his genius interpretation of the standard "Yesterdays" and see how his innovative style has affected jazz pianists of the mid and later 20th century and continues today.

Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk was one of the most original and influential jazz pianists in history and a pivotal creator of the modern jazz sound. Using dissonant chords along with a new approach to melody and form, his music helped create bebop alongside Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in the 40's. However, unlike many of his peers, Monk's playing was not overly busy or fast but it certainly was distinctive and profound and many of his tunes are part of the jazz standard repertoire.

Bud Powell

Out of the first bebop players emerged Bud Powell who took Charlie Parker's innovative style and successfully applied it to the piano but with his own sense of personality. His affect on modern jazz pianists was massive as his style became the standard way of playing bebop and continues to this day to be a great starting point when learning jazz piano. His music is thoughtful, exuberant and swings very hard.

Bill Evans

Bill Evans was one of the greatest jazz pianists to come out of the 50's and one of the most influential on pianists today. His playing helped reform the harmonic language of jazz piano to include a stronger influence of impressionism. Additionally, he refined the possibilities of the piano trio format to be more subtle and interactive instead of just having the bass and drums be supportive to the piano. He is also known for his lyrical melodic improvisations and sophisticated use of rhythmic displacement.

McCoy Tyner

Also influential on pianists today, McCoy Tyner has a unique style that he developed alongside John Coltrane from 1960 to 1965. Mixing bebop and stride with his own strong bass notes, fourth voicings, shimmering tremeloes and rapid-fire superimposed pentatonic scales in his right hand, Tyner's style is powerful and passionate and harmonically very complex.

That's the first half, proceed to Part 2

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