The ten best jazz pianists of all time
William P. Gottlieb
With the exception of players like Thelonious Monk or Art Tatum, piano players don't quite have the name recognition of their horn playing counterparts. All the same, these ivory ticklers play an equally integral role in jazz. As such, just like our lists of the ten best sax players and ten best trumpeters, we put due effort into compiling this rundown of jazz's most virtuosic and compelling piano players. Keep reading for the ten best pianists of all time.
10. Ahmad Jamal
While some pianists favored a heavy handed approach to the piano, 83-year-old Ahmad Jamal favors a lighter touch, and his use of space between the notes was said to have a great influence on Miles Davis. While At the Pershing: But Not For Me, recorded at Chicago's Pershing Hotel in 1958, is hailed as one of his greatest recordings, Jamal also released a number of stellar trio recordings, including some early '70s Impulse! releases, like The Awakening and Freeflight, as well as 2010's A Quiet Time.
9. Oscar Peterson
Over his six-plus decade long career, Canadian Oscar Peterson, who passed away in 2007 at the age of 82, won eight Grammys and played more than 200 recordings. The nimble-fingered pianist showed promise as a young child, and he started gigging professionally as a teenager. Influenced heavily by Art Tatum, Peterson released a number of outstanding albums on Verve throughout the '50s and '60s, including The President Plays with the Oscar Peterson Trio, which also featured Lester Young, and Night Train, one of his most famous discs.
8. Chick Corea
Since getting his start playing gigs in high school, Chick Corea has gone on to release dozens of outstanding discs under his own name, platters like Now He Sings, Now He Sobs and My Spanish Heart. After playing on Miles Davis's late '60s/early '70s jazz-rock fusion albums In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, the prodigious 72-year-old pianist helped propel fusion even more with various incarnations of Return to Forever. Corea reunited the band's classic line-up of Stanley Clarke, Al Di Meola and Lenny White to tour in 2008.
7. Keith Jarrett
Not only a virtuosic and prolific jazz pianist, 68-year-old Keith Jarrett, who will receive National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters awards in January, has recorded quite a few brilliant classical albums throughout his forty-plus year career. Over the last three decades, Jarrett's Standards Trio, which includes bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, has released a number of great discs on ECM, all of which showcase superb musicianship and interplay between the three. Jarrett's solo work is equally as highly touted, especially The Köln Concert, recorded in 1975, which is a tour de force in live improvisation.