Anything by Keith Jarrett; Bill Evans; also (for more upbeat) I like Horace Silver. Good luck- there's lots more!
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Try any solo Ray Bryant(Alone At Montreux, Montreux 77, Somewhere In France). Not always the best recordings, but He cooks. Also solo McKoy Tyner( try Warsaw Concert 1991). Can't listen to piano without something by Oscar Peterson (anything on Pablo label). Dave Grusin is very pleasing (try the Gershwin Connection). Dick Hyman is precise(try Fats Waller or Duke Ellington). From left field, try Dr John Play MacRebeneck..
Slick2: There are some good suggestions above, but here are a few more that you should add to your list:
1. Michel Petrucciani -- a French player who suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta (also known as china bone disease). He's now deceased, much too young, but a marvellous player with some excellent group and solo recordings.
2. Chucho Valdez -- a Cuban pianist with a lot of Latin fire. Check out his recent solo album recorded (I think) at the Village Vanguard.
3. Abdullah Ibrahim, the jazz pianist formerly known as Dollar Brand -- a South African pianist with a wonderful swinging lilt to his style. One of my favorites recordings by him is "Water From An Ancient Well".
4. Erroll Garner -- one of the truly great American pianists. His recording "Concert by the Sea" is a classic, and truly deserves to be.
5. Marian McPartland -- originally from England, Marian is the real deal. She hosts a NPR show called "Piano Jazz" which features a lot of great players.
6. McCoy Tyner -- the piano player for many years in John Coltrane's great quartet of the 1960's. Tyner has a lot of fine recordings, but I'd start with "New York Reunion" on the Chesky label.
All the aforementioned are wonderful jazz giants each and everyone. Here's two more great jazz pianists on exceptionally well recorded releases. Ahmad Jamal's "I Remember Duke, Hoagy, and Strayhorn" Telarc (1994) is filled with very lively keyboard work that will test your speakers. He's accompanied by bass and drums on some tunes but it's mostly him playing great piano. Telarc did it's usual great job in recording. Second suggestion is Tommy Flanagan's "Alone Too Long" a solo recording made in Japan and available only as an import. Ella Fitgerald's accompaniest for many years has a jazz pedigree that's a "Who's Who of Jazz" and deserves the spotlight among jazz's great piano players. Well recorded featuring gorgeously long reflective keyboard pieces. Wonderful music for a quiet evening.
KENNY DREW (on STEEPLECHASE!!)
TETE MONTOLIU (on STEEPLECHASE!!)
Want artistry that will last. This is it.......Frank
Ditto to all previous postings! To throw a few different names into the mix, one of the best from-every-perspective recordings I've come across in recent history is "McCoy Tyner with Stanley Clarke and Al Foster," - Telarc 2000. On a decent playback system, it really gives you that intimate jazz club, you are “there” live, experience. Also, check out Lyle Mays’ (of Pat Metheny Group fame) “Fictionary,” with Marc Johnson and Jack DeJonnette,
- Geffen 1993; an excellent virtuoso performance most closely aligned with mainstream classic jazz. Mays’ “Lyle Mays,” – Geffen 1986, on the other hand, is actually a “suite” of original works showcasing an amalgamation of styles that is Lyle’s alone. To me, it’s a work of pure genius. Finally, anything by Eliane Elias.
I am glad to see Marian Mc Partland and Dick Hyman given their "props" in this thread.
Marian Mc Partland's "Reprise"- excellent sound, beautiful playing. Also
"Live at Yoshi's"
Also you can try a number of her Piano Jazz CD's, which are recordings of her NPR radio show. I particularly like the one with bassist Milt Hinton and the one with Dave Brubeck.
Dick Hyman on Reference Recordings:
"From the Age of Swing"
"Plays Duke Ellington"
"Plays Fats Waller"
"Swing is Here"
(I ordered the Dick Hyman recordings from best to worst, IMO. However, all or excellent and worth owning.)
For piano playing, but not for singing:
Diana Krall, "Stepping Out"
This is an excellent recording, also. Very dynamic.
If this category can be extended to blues:
Jay Mc Shann's Hybrid SACD "What a Wonderful World". This is dynamic, excellent musicianship all around. Again, he is not a great singer.
Dave Brubeck has a double hybrid SACD of two live performances done, I believe, for his 80th birthday called "From the USA and the UK". There is some excellent jazz improvisation on here. I absolutely hate the alto sax work on these recordings, though. Paul Desmond, where are you when we need you?
Here are some good-sounding piano jazz titles. Note that these are not always the best performances from these artists, but all have what I consider to be good or better sound quality and content. Recordings marked with a * are my personal favorites.
-Nights at the Vanguard
-Lady Be Good*
-My Fair Lady (w/Shelly Manne)
-Plays Songs of Jerome Kern
-Plays Songs of Harold Arlen
-Plays Songs of Vernon Duke
-Here is Phineas
-The Only One
-Fight To Jordan*
-Flight To Denmark
-The Bridge Game
-Heart of Gold
-Ellis Marsalis Trio
-All Kinds of Weather
-Red Garland's Piano*
-Trio, Volume 1
-All Night Session Volumes 1, 2, 3
-These Are Soulful Days
-At The Jazz Workshop
-Half and Half
-More Grand Piano
-Some Ballads, Some Blues
Jazz label "Reservoir Music" has a fantastic series of recordings they call the "New York Piano" series. Rudy Van Gelder is the recording engineer for most of the sessions. The artists are generally unknown outside the NYC area, but both performances and sound quality are superb on each of the dozen or so titles I have purchased by pianists Hod O'Brien, Steve Kuhn, Rob Schneiderman, Pete Malinverni, and Dick Katz.
Lots of good choices on the Three Blind Mice label. My favorite is Midnight Sugar, a studio recording by the Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio. Great performance, excellent sound.
Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival. A fine live performance that has Evans playing a bit more lightheartedly. Recording puts you in the hall with them.
Yuko Mabuchi Plays Miles Davis. A lovely, inspired session recorded with holographic clarity.