We are continuing our “Evolution Of An Instrument” series this week by taking a look at the evolving nature of jazz piano. The piano, which can be played as both a melodic, rhythmic and improvisational instrument, has been an integral part of jazz since the genre’s inception. In the early years of jazz, as the music migrated from New Orleans to Chicago to New York, each city’s players brought their merging of sounds and influences to the piano; ragtime from New Orleans, stride from Chicago, and swing from New York. Through swing grew the inventive sounds of bebop and hard bop and the creation of what we now call modern jazz. Pianists, who were also often bandleaders and composers, were at the heart of this transformation and led the way in creating new sounds, chordal ideas and improvisational melodic ideas. We’ve included some of our favorite pianists below, but there are definitely many more that deserve notice. Who else do you think should be included?
* Popularized Ragtime, a notated, syncopated form of music written primarily for piano
* Morton was arguably the first pianist/composer to fuse ragtime, blues, spirituals, white popular songs and French and Spanish influences to create what was then starting to be called “jazz.” His composition “Jelly Roll Blues” was the first published jazz composition and proved that jazz could still retain its improvisational characteristics even when notated.
* Master of the stride piano
*Played in the ‘trumpet’ style of using double octaves in the right hand to create a clear melodic lines and unusual flourishes in his left hand
*Melded the sounds of Harlem and Kansas to become the leader of the Big Band Swing Era
*Often regarded as the founder of bebop, formed his musical identity at the famous Minton’s Playhouse
*Known for his experimentation with unusual time signatures
(Larry Grenadier, Jorge Rossy)