How can there really be a "best"? Oscar Peterson? Benny Green? Bill Evans? Duke sure could swing. One I have really been enjoying lately but don't hear too much about is Ahmad Jamal. He might be my "best" when the mood strikes me. He has a different style that is certainly his and his alone.
Although I selected one above I agree with HiFiHarv's statement "How can there be a best" The arts are not a competition. All musicians have something to offer you. It is up to you to decide whom you like
It would more imformative and allow for more complete posts to ask, Who is the worst Jazz pianist? Because all the players mentioned are great, and I'm sure no one named all the ones they could have named.
My favorite are probably Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson, depending upon my mood. I also really enjoy Keith Jarrett, Tommy Flanagan, Michel Camilo, Michael Palma, Dan Haerle, and Shelly Berg (amongst many, many others).
Ah, Art Tatum. Yeah I get where you're coming from Elizabeth and sometimes the arpeggio runs do go a bit over the top but that's Art. On the other hand his harmonic improvisation and the absolute effortless and ease of his playing is really astounding. I particularly enjoy his solo works where he can showcase his special talent. I really love some of his early stuff, the stride style of James Johnson and Fats Waller that has long gone out of style, he really took this up a notch or two. Oscar Peterson of more contemporary pianists is fun to listen to as well in that style. I wouldn't say he is my favorite because I have no one particular favorite, some are so original in their styles that it is too difficult to chose only one but I WOULD say without any reservation that Tatum is technically the best jazz pianist I've ever listened to.
Not surprised I haven't seen his name on this thread, but I am down with Sir Roland Hanna. An incredibly sensitive pianist with awesome technique. Not necessarily the best, whatever the metrics on that are, but very deserving of our recognition.
A little surprised by all of the Tatum bashing. From Wiki:
"Numerous stories exist about other musicians' respect for Tatum. Perhaps the most famous is the story about the time Tatum walked into a club where Fats Waller was playing, and Waller stepped away from the piano bench to make way for Tatum, announcing, "I only play the piano, but tonight God is in the house." Fats Waller's son confirmed the statement.
Charlie Parker (who helped develop bebop) was highly influenced by Tatum. When newly arrived in New York, Parker briefly worked as a dishwasher in a Manhattan restaurant where Tatum was performing and often listened to the legendary pianist. Parker once said, I wish I could play like Tatums right hand!
When Oscar Peterson was still a young boy, his father played him a recording of Art Tatum performing "Tiger Rag". Once the young Peterson was finally persuaded that it was performed by a single person, Peterson was so intimidated that he did not touch the piano for weeks. Interviewing Oscar Peterson in 1962, Les Tompkins asked, "Is there one musician you regard as the greatest?" Peterson replied, "Im an Art Tatumite. If you speak of pianists, the most complete pianist that we have known and possibly will know, from what Ive heard to date, is Art Tatum." "Musically speaking, he was and is my musical God, and I feel honored to remain one of his humbly devoted disciples."
"Here's something new .... " pianist Hank Jones remembers thinking when he first heard Art Tatum on radio in 1935, " .... they have devised this trick to make people believe that one man is playing the piano, when I know at least three people are playing."
The jazz pianist and educator Kenny Barron commented, "I have every record [Tatum] ever made and I try never to listen to them If I did, I'd throw up my hands and give up!" Jean Cocteau dubbed Tatum "a crazed Chopin." Count Basie called him the eighth wonder of the world. Dave Brubeck observed, "I don't think there's any more chance of another Tatum turning up than another Mozart." Pianist Mulgrew Miller, a noted fan of Tatum, commented on personal growth by saying, "When I talk to the people I admire, they're always talking about continuous growth and development and I look at them and say, 'Well...what are YOU going to do?' But, as Harold Mabern says, 'There's always Art Tatum records around'". Dizzy Gillespie said, "First you speak of Art Tatum, then take a long deep breath, and you speak of the other pianists."
The pianist Teddy Wilson observed, "Maybe this will explain Art Tatum. If you put a piano in a room, just a bare piano. Then you get all the finest jazz pianists in the world and let them play in the presence of Art Tatum. Then let Art Tatum play ... everyone there will sound like an amateur.""
I like Oliver Jones, Jessica Williams, Brad Mehldau, Cecil Taylor, Bobby Timmons, Wynton Kelly, Horace Parlan, Benny Green and Geri Allen.
So many good choices as to be expected, there have been many talented pianist over the years and then factor in the multitude of styles. I'll base mine on who I find myself listening to the most often. Theloneous Monk, Herbie Hancock, Kenny Barron, Tommy Flanagan and the sleeper on my list Barry Harris (a pure bopper with a beautiful left hand). I could name many more, I 'm just glad someone recorded these fabulous musicians. Regards,
I love Monk. I love Bud Powell. I love Claude Williamson. I love Hampton Hawes. I love Brubeck. I love Art Tatum. I love George Shearing. I love Bill Evans. I love Tommy Flanagan. I love
Phineas Newborn Jr. I love
Oscar Peterson = Blazing technique ... no soul.
Keith Jarrett = Please, stuff a rag in his mouth.
They are all excellent and each have had they're special moments. Steve Lawrence relayed a story about being a guest at a club in Europe with Fran Sinatra.On stage,the piano player asked Frank if there is something special he would like to hear. His reply was Oscar Peterson but he's not here. I'd like to add Vince Guaraldi to the already mentioned greats
Oregonpapa, Whence I first became really interested in jazz I was naturally drawn to the big and established names. So it was a lot of Oscar Petterson, I like him. Later on I discovered Thelonious Monk. I wouldn't say Oscar lacks soul but he doesn't move me as Monk does, just an entirely deeper level. Natural evolving process with added time, lisstening and exposure to this wonderful genre.I respect Petterson but have the highest admiration and love for Monk''s playing and equally for his fabulous compositions. There is a profound emotional connection with Monk that isn't evoked with Petterson. Purely subjective obviously as we're discussing artists of enormous talent with different appeal. Charles,