The 25 Best Jazz Pianists of All Time
You love jazz and piano and wonder who are the best jazz pianists of all time? You’ve come to the right place!
Jazz is a beautiful style when played well on the piano. But it is also a style that is very difficult to acquire and master!
Many pianists have specialized in this musical genre and have shone. But which ones have become legends? How have they marked the history of this style?
In this article, we present you the 25 best jazz pianists of all times. Let’s get started!
1 – Jelly Roll Morton
Jelly Roll Morton is a very great American jazz pianist, born in 1890 in New Orleans.
The genius of this artist is that he was able to transform the genre of rag, represented by Scott Joplin, into a less rigid and more popular style: jazz.
Very famous during his lifetime, he filled all concert halls.
Many consider him today as the founder of modern jazz.
Learn to play Jelly Roll Morton's songs on piano on La Touche Musicale.
2 – Scott Joplin
Scott Joplin is an African-American pianist and composer specializing in jazz and rag, born in 1868.
His impact in ragtime music and more generally American music is considerable.
Scott Joplin is still today one of the best known rag pianists of all time.
Learn to play Scott Joplin's jazz pianist songs on La Touche Musicale.
3 – Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington is a jazz composer and pianist, born in 1899 in Washington.
He wrote many musicals, contemporary music and was a very famous jazz conductor during his lifetime.
His Big Band is one of the most renowned jazz orchestras of all time.
Considered a master virtuoso, he’s one of the leading composers of popular music in the United States.
Many of his compositions have now become jazz standards and are part of the Great American Song Repertoire.
Jazz pianists: play Duke Ellington's songs on piano on La Touche Musicale.
4 – Art Tatum
Art tatum is an American pianist born in 1909.
He’s considered by most critics as one of the greatest jazz virtuosos.
Art Tatum formed with the guitarist Tiny Grimes and the bassist Slam Stewart a jazz trio very popular at the time.
He recorded numerous solo records and performed in many concerts in New York.
He gained respect and inspired the greatest pianists of all times, with more classical influences, such as Vladimir Horowitz or Serge Rachmaninov.
Art Tatum piano performance.
5 – Thelonius Monk
Thelonius Monk is an American jazz pianist and composer born in 1917.
A very prolific artist, more than 50 of his records were published during his lifetime.
His piano playing is one of the most easily recognizable in the history of jazz. While the jazz pianists of his time were used to playing simple chords with the left hand and more complex melodies with the right, Thelonius Monk gave equal importance to playing with both hands.
He posthumously won several prizes and distinctions, such as the Grammy for career achievement (1993) and the Special Pullitzer Prize for his outstanding contribution to the world of jazz (2006).
Learn to play jazz pianist Thelonius Monk's compositions on piano on La Touche Musicale.
6 – Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck is a great American jazz composer and pianist, born in 1920 in California.
He composed many jazz standards such as The Duke or In Your Own Sweet Way.
He has founded several jazz bands and has also had a great career as a solo pianist. At 89 years old, Dave Brubeck still gives concerts.
He’s considered as one of the artists who has most shaken the codes of jazz in his time, especially in the traditional rhythmics.
Learn Dave Brubeck on piano on La Touche Musicale.
7 – Count Basie
Count Basie is a pianist, organist and conductor specialized in jazz, born in 1904.
Like Duke Ellington, his Big Band represents the quintessence of classical jazz.
His first characteristic compared to other jazz pianists is that he has approached many registers, from blues to classical music, including musicals.
Count Basie is today one of the most renowned figures in the world of jazz.
Jazz pianist: Count Basie piano solo performance.
8 – Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock is a pianist, keyboardist and jazz composer born in Chicago in 1940.
He’s one of the most important jazz musicians of his time, thanks in particular to his contribution to this musical genre. He mixed elements of soul, disco, funk and even rock with jazz.
Herbie Hancock is also one of the pioneers in the use of new instruments in jazz, such as the synthesizer and scratch.
Today he is considered one of the greatest jazzmen of all time.
Herbie Hancock on piano.
9 – Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett is one of the most renowned jazz pianists of all time.
Born in 1945 in Allentown, he became a brilliant musician in many instruments: piano, organ, harpsichord, saxophone and percussion. He’s also a great conductor.
Strongly inspired by the folk guitar, Keith Jarrett opens the jazz piano to new musical horizons.
He has won numerous prizes and distinctions, such as the Polar Music Prize in 2003, the Léonie-Sonning Music Prize in 2004, and the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale for the body of his work.
Play the songs of one of the most famous jazz pianists Keith Jarrett on piano on La Touche Musicale.
10 – Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal is an American jazz pianist and composer born in 1930 in Pittsburgh.
He formed several trios in Chicago.
It is really in the 1980s that Ahmad Jamal will release most of his works and will know a great popularity. He multiplies the concerts and the publications of recordings.
With Nat King Cole (to be discussed later in this article), he is one of the few jazz pianists who did not have a solo career.
Ahmad Jamal piano performance.
11 – Bill Evans
Bill Evans is an American jazz pianist and composer born in 1929 in New Jersey.
From 1959, he formed a trio with double bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian that became very famous and recorded a total of 4 records.
Bill Evans is not necessarily considered as a jazz artist belonging to the avant-garde. However, he will largely contribute to revolutionize the approach of the trio and the piano in the world of jazz.
Jazz pianist Bill Evans plays piano.
12 – Michel Petrucciani
Born in Orange in 1962, Michel Petrucciani is a French pianist and composer specialized in jazz.
In 1981, he left for the United States to launch his career as a jazzman.
From the 90’s, he performs in public and records several albums.
From a technical point of view, Michel Petrucciani is considered a true virtuoso pianist. His playing is characterized by a remarkable technicality as well as an exceptional speed of execution. He works very intensely, which is what allows him to acquire such a technical level.
Michel Petrucciani on piano.
13 – Bud Powell
Bud Powell is an American jazz pianist born in New York in 1924.
He started playing the piano at the age of 6 and soon revealed himself to be a true virtuoso pianist.
After starting his career in jazz piano, where he played in several orchestral formations, Bud Powell soon became noticed for his agility and pianistic technicality.
He is now considered one of the finest jazz artists and pianists of all time.
Learn Bud Powell's songs on piano.
14 – Yaron Herman
Yaron Herman is a French-Israeli jazz artist, born in 1981 in Tel Aviv.
After a short sports career, he began studying the piano at the age of 16. Two years later, he won the prestigious “Junior Talent” award from the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music.
Yaron Herman recorded his first album at the age of 21.
In 2008, he won a Victoire du Jazz award in the category of Revelation of the Year.
Influenced by great jazz pianists such as Keith Jarrett and Lennie Tristano, Yaron Herman is considered a talented artist.
Yaron Herman piano performance.
15 – Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor is an American pianist and poet born in 1929 in New York.
He’s known to be the founder of free jazz.
From the 1970s, Cecil Taylor began to be popular and critically acclaimed.
He played in groups, trios and then began a solo career. He is known to be one of the most prolific jazz pianists in terms of musical creation, recording a large number of solo and group albums.
Jazz pianist Cecil Taylor plays piano.
16 – Monty Alexander
Monty Alexander is a Jamaican jazz pianist, born in Kingston in 1944.
He discovered the piano by himself at the age of 4 and received his first classical piano lessons at the age of 6.
It was only 8 years later that he decided to adopt jazz as his main style.
He then leaves for New York and performs in public with great artists such as Frank Sinatra.
He then recorded solo and trio albums.
His style of jazz playing is easy to access and joyful. He will meet great success in summer festivals thanks to his style.
Monty Alexander plays jazz on piano.
17 – Nat King Cole
Nat King Cole is an American jazz singer and pianist, born in 1919 in Montgomery.
He’s one of the most famous crooners in the history of jazz and also one of the best-selling artists of this genre, having sold a total of 50 million albums worldwide.
In the 1940s, he founded a trio that became very popular and was acclaimed by critics and audiences alike.
In 1990, he received the Grammy for the crowning achievement of a career in the world of jazz piano.
Nat King Cole on piano.
18 – Hank Jones
Hank Jones is an American jazz pianist born in Vicksburg in 1918.
At the age of 13, he started playing piano for local dances and radio stations.
Two years later, he performed in public in jazz clubs in Detroit.
In 1943, he formed a trio consisting of a saxophone and a double bass player.
Influenced by artists such as Bud Powell or Coleman Hawkins, he is very quickly attracted by the new style of Bepop.
He then becomes a pianistic reference in the world of jazz and more generally of American music. He will accompany all the major artists of the jazz scene, marking the beginning of a long and prestigious solo career.
In 2008 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts and in 2009 a Grammy Award.
The pianist Hank Jones plays jazz on piano.
19 – Horace Silver
Horace Silver was born in 1928 in Norwalk. Pianist and composer of jazz very strongly influenced by blues and gospel, he’s one of the major figures of soul jazz.
His style is characterized by a very rhythmic style inspired by great pianists such as Thelonius Monk and Bud Powell.
He emphasizes simple but harmonious melodies and his playing is very technical.
He’s one of the most prolific jazz artists of his time, and has recorded many albums, both solo and in groups.
Horace Silver is today considered one of the best pianists in the world of jazz.
Play the compositions of one of the greatest jazz pianists Horace Silver on La Touche Musicale.
20 – Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus, born in 1922 in Nogales, is an American double bassist, composer and jazz pianist.
Influenced by the Bepop movement and by gospel music, his contribution to the world of jazz is very important.
He recorded many albums with famous pianists, such as Miles Davis, and is both a conductor and a remarkable instrumentalist.
Charles Mingus is today considered one of the greatest pianists of all time.
Charles Mingus on piano.
21 – Randy Weston
Randy Weston is an American musician, composer and pianist, specializing in jazz.
Born in 1926 in Brooklyn, he travels all over Africa and imbues his work and style with the currents of African music, particularly Gnawa music.
He revolutionized the way of playing jazz by bringing these new musical currents to it.
The jazz pianist Randy Weston plays piano.
22 – John Lewis
John Lewis is an American jazz arranger, composer and pianist, born in 1920 in La Grange, Illinois.
Very famous for having directed the Modern Jazz Quartet and for having introduced some notions of classical music (fugue, harmony, …) into jazz, he was the leader of a very famous group: the Milt Jackson Quartet.
His discography is very important and he bequeaths to the world of jazz a considerable musical production.
Play John Lewis's jazz songs on piano with La Touche Musicale.
23 – Esbjörn Svensson
Born in 1964, Esbjörn Svensson is the founder of the trio of the same name and is a famous Swedish contemporary jazz pianist.
After studying at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, he began to perform in public.
He gained notoriety when he founded the group E.S.T. in 1990, with whom he produced numerous albums.
Inspired by the great jazz artists of the 20th century such as Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea, Esbjörn Svensson had the ability to take their respective styles almost to perfection and adapt them to his own musical style.
Esbjorn Svensson plays piano on jazz concert.
24 – Chick Corea
Chick Corea is a famous American jazz pianist, born in Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1941.
He’s an excellent classical pianist, yet he’s not known for this musical style. In fact, it’s by becoming a member of Miles Davis’ prestigious music group in the 60’s that he became a very popular musician, participating in the emergence and development of jazz-rock.
He is now considered one of the most influential and popular pianists of the late 20th century.
The performance of the jazz pianist Chick Corea at Montreux.
25 – Miles Davis
Miles Davis, born in 1926 in Alton (Illinois) is a composer, trumpet player and famous American jazz pianist.
He started playing the trumpet at the age of 13 and quickly became a very good musician.
He was the pioneer of many developments in the field of jazz.
He surrounded himself with the best jazz musicians of the time and produced many recordings with them.
Miles Davis is now considered by critics to be one of the best and most prolific jazz pianists of all time.
Learn Miles Davis' So What on piano with La Touche Musicale.
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