The Greatest Jazz Pianists

February 11, 2017

So just who are the greatest jazz pianists? Well we have, as usual, scoured the net, magazines and books to conduct our poll of polls and this is the result. Of course we know many of you will disagree with the list, who is ranked above, or below, who, and we’re as ever, keen to hear from you as to who you think should be on the list.

There are a number of pianists that we are sorry to see fail to make the Top 36, the innovative Mary Lou Williams for one, Jacky Terrasson is another that we admire and so is the late Joe Sample. Just let us know your favourites and why.

We’re sursprised that bud Powell didn’t make it a little higher up the list and glad to see that Lyle Mays made it.

Scroll down for our playlist of the 36 Greatest Jazz Pianists…

But why 36? Well as we all know there are 36 black keys on a piano…

36. Andrew Hill
35. Dave Grusin
34. Cecil Taylor
33. Lyle Mays
32. Sonny Clark
31. Michel Petrucciani
30. Hank Jones
29. Scott Joplin
28. Ramsey Lewis
27. Wynton Kelly
26. James P. Johnson
25. Kenny Kirkland
24. Bob James
23. George Shearing
22. Joe Zawinul
21. Teddy Wilson
20. Horace Silver
19. Red Garland
18. Tommy Flanagan
17. Erroll Garner
16. Dave Brubeck
15. Jelly Roll Morton
14. Earl Hines
13. Count Basie
12. Fats Waller
11. Duke Ellington
10. Ahmad Jamal

9. Chick Corea
Chick Corea
8. Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
7. Bud Powell
Bud Powell
6. McCoy Tyner
5. Oscar Peterson
Oscar peterson
4. Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hankcock
3. Bill Evans
Bill Evans
2. Thelonious Monk
1. Art Tatum


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  1. Charles Thompson

    Wonderful list but Phineas Newborn should at least be in the top 20; he isn’t on the list at all. Good cases could be made for John Lewis, James Williams, Mulgrew Miller, Don Pullen , Joe Sample and Muhal Richard Abrams.

          1. Alexander Jeffrey Aerni

            Plus, Diana Krall happens to be married to my favorite musical artist of all time, Mr. Elvis Costello!

      1. Gary Berger

        While I don’t agree with all the choices/rankings (who does??) I agree Diana Krall does not belong anywhere near this list.

      2. Joeyjojo Shabadou

        There are lots of great women jazz pianists but we shouldn’t put women on the list merely to be politically correct. Dianna Krall is a fine musician but is she really a great innovative pianist or just a good all around pianist and entertainer. I think you could make a strong case for Mary Lou Williams to be included on this list.

      3. Scott

        Patrice Rushin? Diana Krall? This list is the all-time great jazz pianists. McPartland and Williams should probably make the list but the other two? Come on.

    1. Funlola Famuyiwa

      I still can’t fathom how VInce Guaraldi didn’t get on the list. I mean, he was definitely one of the greatests of all time. Oscar Peterson should have been at the no 1 spot

    2. Joseph Russotti

      My exact thought when reading this naive list. After Tatum , Monk and Evans its hard to set a pecking order, but the author needs to listen to Newborn; he was way ahead of many of the contemporaries listed.

      1. matt

        Phineas Newborn Jr should, of course,…. etc.,etc.
        After Tatum, Monk, Lyrical Bill, there is a swarm of fine contenders. Enjoy.

    3. Villy Paraskevopoulos

      No Lenny Tristano at the list?How is this possible?Dave Grusin on the list? Before Andrew Hill?Cecil Taylor no 34?Keith Jarrett no 8?I think both three could be a little bit Higher.And Craig Taborn should be for sure on the list!Because I am not a sexist I can not forget of course one of my favorite Marilyn Crispell!

    4. Hugh Palmer

      Earl Hines would hold the No.1 spot for me. Another who could really deliver when the atmosphere was just right was Dorothy Donegan.

  2. illaysabag

    the list includes a great pianists, but what about mal waldron, jaki byard, bobby timmons, paul bley, cedar walton, sun ra, alice coltrane?

  3. Markus Mueller

    ridiculous list: Crusin, Kirkland, all these “Jazzrock” losers. And there are people like von Schlippenbach, Tippett, Mengelberg, Morab, Ivers…

  4. Markus Mueller

    ridiculous list: Crusin, Kirkland, all these “Jazzrock” losers. And there are people like von Schlippenbach, Tippett, Mengelberg, Moran, Ivers…

    1. Jazz Lover

      OMG! Kirkland a “rock loser”? One of the main proponents of the Herbie Hancock school of jazz who played with everyone, including the Marsalisis and Kenny Garrett is a loser! And rock no less! Go clean your ears and learn some lineage!! Next you’ll call Mulgrew Miller a folk musician who only played triads. Sheesh!!

      1. Alan Palanker

        I knew Kenny very well when we were students at MSM…Most important he was a wonderful soul who made you feel important….

      1. Lutz Bacher

        Mine as well, John. And I might add a few others not on the list or mentioned above: Mary Lou Williams, Lennie Tristano, Stanley Cowell, Kirk Lightsey, Dave Burrell.

  5. j Wilson

    I can’t agree with this list. Everybody goes ape over Art Tatum.. But he was all arpeggio and flash . Teddy Wilson and fats should be a lot higher on that list. and Monk was a great composer but a rather lousy pianist.

    1. Anton Spry

      I always find “strong opinions” some kind of ridiculous, and mostly I don’t want to join in the battle of all the “experts” (I am, because my opinions are soooo different).
      But saying that Monk was “lousy as a piano player” … come on. If you don’t dig what his qualities as a pianist were then you don’t dig what jazz and blues are about.
      Apart from that: Nobody misses Cedar Walton?

  6. PianoPlayer

    Oscar Peterson 5 ?? Hahaha….he is the best . EVER>! after Tatum
    Fats Waller Earl Hines Erroll Garner 17 ??????
    the most shit rating ever! Teddy Wilson 21 WTF?
    it’s a joke? what about Hiromi ? What about Milt Buckner? Nat King Cole …… it’s a joke that’s what it is.

      1. Bryan

        Yes, if you listen to the superb 1946 Sinatra recording of “Sweet Lorraine” with the Metronome All-Stars, Cole’s piano is wonderful.

    1. Funlola Famuyiwa

      Nat King Cole, was probably better known for his vocals, than being a piano player. His piano playing, to me was rather too simplistic and mundane when compared with the likes of Red Garland and Oscar Peterson.

  7. Simon

    George Cables, Stan Tracy, Carla Bley, Monty Alexander, Pete Johnson, – I vote for 88 otherwise there isn’t enough room on the piano stool.

  8. bob johnson

    many omissions:Geoff Keezer,Vic Feldman,Bobby Timmons,Derek Smith,Jimmy Rowles,Marcus Roberts,Vince Guaraldi.Lou Levy,Marian McPartland,Gerry Wiggins,Pete Jolly,Hamp Hawes,Monty Alexander,Cedar Walton,Russ Freeman,John Lewis,Ray Bryant,Joe Sample,Billy Taylor,Mulgrew Miller


    Imposible que no figure uno de los creadores y geniales pianistas del principio: JELLY ROLL MORTON y luego el inmortal Fats Waller, el maravilloso Earl Hines, el grande Teddy Wilson.
    Parece que al o los autores de la lista no les gusta el jazz más tradicional, es una fea y equivocada discriminación.

  10. Cameron Beattie

    Phineaso Newborn is a huge miss – as others have pointed out Mulgrew and James Williams can be easily be added in front of a few on the list – Billy Taylor as well – and Hampton Hawes should be in the top 20 – sorry but Dave Grusin and Bob James are great players but no where near the virtuoso’s listed above – and for that thought Monty Alexander could blow most of these guys away – and what about Dick Hyman – I love Joe Zawinul and all of his music – but the list is of Pianists and a huge amount of his recorded work is Keyboard based -so not in the top 30 – finally Fred Hersch needs to be in the top 30 – for his musical diversity alone – owe and there is that Mehldau guy….

    1. RENATO


  11. A. Barnes

    Keith Jarrett, for god’s sakes, but not Martial Solal? Please. (And if you think Monk wasn’t a great pianist, you don’t understand a single thing about his compositions or his playing.)

  12. Don Scott

    I think it’s on of the first lists that is pretty good…..I play and little piano and guitar and fancy myself as fairly knowledgeable in guitar, bass and drums……Maybe I know just enough to get into trouble……no one can ever agree on any list……ever. but this one is close without dissecting and nitpicking it to death.


      Have to agree that these names could fit in there somewhere. I suppose one needs to lay out specific “judgment” criteria too – I personally never believe in “the best muso in the world” stuff – it is Art after all !

  13. Daniel

    Nice list, but far from perfect! Here are my thoughts:

    BRAD MEHLDAU. The absence of Brad Mehldau is unforgivable – I checked like 10 times to be sure I didn’t just miss him.

    For Fred Hersch I checked 5 times.

    I disagree on Monk ranking so highly, he’s a great composer but not an amazing pianist.

    I wouldn’t know who to place #1, but I’d be choosing between Evans, Mehldau and Jarrett. I feel there’s some distance between those 3 and everyone else since they achieve greater deepness – even drama – in their playing while being as technically profficient as the other great ones. They also seem to find the perfect balance between restraint and expressivity while the others are simply on another level.

    Just below these, in the very next level of sensitivity and deepness, I’d place Fred Hersch, Ahmad Jamal, Michel Petrucciani and Marian McPartland.

    Finally, if we took into account virtuosism (true virtuosism, which involves making it sound clear and perfect) I’d add Hancock, Tatum, Peterson and Corea; Hancock being the one pianist who can get the best SOUND out of a grand piano – he’s absolute perfection playing chords.

    1. Michael

      Hey Daniel, yours is one of only few comments I could subscribe. Jarrett behind Monk? Never! As you said, the latter was a great composer and surely played an important role in jazz history, but he wasn’t a great pianist.

  14. Chrisrian Brockmeier

    Charlie Parker, asked in an interview who would be hs favorite pianists, answered quickly “Al Haig.” The interviewer hesitated a bit obviously waiting for other names. “Some other names? finally he asked. Charlie’s Reply: “AL HAIG!”

    The very underestimated Dave MacKenna could be mentionned here. And Abdullah Ibrahim. And, of the younger generation, Robert Glasper. And, and, and…

  15. steve robertson

    Grusin and James (nice people!) are odd choices. Hill, Cables and Hersch should be higher. And how about Jess Stacy? Both Teddy W and Earl Hines felt he was their equal, and both are rightfully on this list.

    1. Joeyjojo Shabadou

      I personally think Mary Lou Williams should be somewhere on the list, maybe even Elaine Elias but there are a lot more great male jazz pianists than female. I’m sorry. This is not the case with concert classical pianists.

  16. John Roberts

    Hmm, didn’t see Kenny Barron there, y’all must not dig that muscular style. And Bill Evans really was the Master of them all.

    1. michael wesolek

      there is a more influence on jazz innovation than bill evans . I do have some issues with some on list but the top 5 ( in a different order ) is very good but is debateable in some people.

  17. Johan Ahlgren

    Without a doubt I would add Phineas Newborn and Brad Mehldau to that list, and I could easily leave out Bob James and Dave Grusin. And if you go outside of the USA, and you should, you have to mention Abdullah Ibrahim and Jan Johansson.

  18. Pithy Prolix

    Willie “The Lion” Smith is certainly a great oversight. His Commodore recordings are one of the great pinnacles of jazz.

  19. Laima

    Gonzalo Rubalcaba should be on list, somewhere near the top. And Brad Mehldau, of course. If the list would be longer, I definitely would add Jimmy Rowles, Bill Charlap and Georgy Szabados.

    1. Ned Rodgers

      Thanks Herman. I kept thinking doesn’t anyone know Tete Montoliu? And then I saw your post. I love Tete. He’s head and shoulders more talented than many on the list. And George Gershwin! I was having a drink one evening with Frank Strazerri and he said “George Gershwin could cut me”.

  20. Russ Kassoff

    Lists are silly. You can always make the case for any of these folks but as time goes on people forget the greats of a somewhat earlier day. Dave McKenna and Marian McPartland would certainly make my top 36 and it’s tough for me to exclude them in the top 20, Dave definitely in the top ten.

  21. cisneros

    such a list is a nice provocation…simply to recall all who are mentioned justifies the exercise. however, I feel that the inclusion of lyle mays, dave gruisin and bob james can not be justified next to the exclusion of Sun Ra, Paul Bley, Tete Monteliu and Lennie Tristano. Duke should be in the top ten…wish he had recorded a solo album…

  22. HEVF

    I disagree with the order of the entire list with the exception of Art Tatum. An I would move Bill Evans to #2 in front of Monk.

    The next time a poll like this is conducted, it should be taken among all the living jazz pianists. I mean Brubeck should be in the top 5, and Dave Grusin in the top 10 just based on the contribution they have made to jazz over the years. Other than that, might as well throw darts.

  23. Brian Horn

    How this list can omit John Lewis, proves a point I always make that he is/was the most under rated pianist there is.. He was there at the start of modern jazz with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis etc. I rate him up with Monk and far better than Art Tatum in his jazz input. As for Dave Brubeck, I like him but wouldn’t rate him at 16. Whats the reason for his omission. It’s beyond me!!!

  24. Richard

    Chucho Valdez.

    How does one compare pianists with different styles? Monk could have played like Tatum. Rather the genius opted to define his own style that fitted his original compositions and his improvisations. After a while, I find Tatum’s piano runs boring when compared to Monk’s dissonant notes and spacing.

  25. Jack Spencer

    And the arguing goes on! If that surprises anyone. Look, they’re all great, even the one you thought should be higher, or lower on the list.

  26. Shelody

    I think these lists are made up to include aspirants so when their agents or publicists are spinning they can through out the bomb ‘…they’ve been included in the Best Of …List’ and to wannabe enthusiasts it is the ultimate and for the lovers it’s a crime of omission. (yeah, McPartland, Dearie and Les McCann should NOT have been supplanted by anyone) Hell, even Jose Iturbi was a better jazz pianist than some of these listees.

  27. Michael Sturgulewski

    My interest is in most classical piano but admire jazz pianists who possess a solid thorough technique AND play with something resembling a pleasant singing tone. I have no use for the percussive style virtually devoid of dynamics that many exhibit. I agree with a couple of dozen on the list, but I would have thought that Maryanne McPartland deserved an entry somewhere. I agree with the guy who thought Iturbi was a better jazz pianists than many on this list.

  28. MJBonner

    Wow -as a Jazz piano lover I could care less about the order, though it might be nice to see a list of living piano players. You should see the list I put together with the additional pianist mentioned in the comments here. My list is at 90 players, some of whom I have not heard before. I will enjoy the ride of just listening and enjoying…

  29. Paul

    Scott Joplin is on this list. Hmmm, has anyone ever actually heard Scott Joplin play?? No, is the answer. How laughable is this list.

    1. Joeyjojo Shabadou

      Scott Joplin made about 6 hand played piano rolls, including a composition by W.C Handy but he certainly should not be on this list. He wasn’t a jazz pianist and he was more of a composer than a performer anyways.

  30. Jim Knapp

    I’ll second the nominations of Jimmy Rowles, and even stronger, Hampton Hawes. The biggest selling Jazz LP in ’56 was Andre Previn & Shelly Mann’s “My Fair Lady”. Andre was a young European hanging around LA at the time. Listen to Andre’s chops and then listen to Hampton Hawes. One guess where Previn got his inspiration!!

  31. Eduard Paul

    There are so many great Jazz Pianists!!!! They cannot possibly all fit in a list of 36 musicians!!! I guess the first 36 pianists are some of the best! That’s the way to see it !

  32. Richard Leigh

    Lists are a good way of focusing the mind, by making us consider who else could be there. I’d include Herbie Nichols, Richard Twardzik

    I’d include Richard Twardzik, Herbie Nichols, Mal Waldron, and of course the great Curley Kale, who died young (pre-natally, in fact), but would surely have been the best if he’d only survived long enough to get on record. He’s up there with George Hedges, another forgotten legend who never got to play with anyone at all. And what ***********headed moron is responsible for including the ham-fisted and unoriginal ……….

  33. Manuel

    Duke Ellington! He may not have been the virtuoso that Tatum was (Monk wasn’t either), but being the greatest jazz composer and orchestrator, he had developed what every classical pianist craves for and not always reaches: an endless pallette of pianistic colors. What makes a great pianist, in any style of music, is not how fast or how many notes he can play, but his ability to develop the richest variety of colors. That’s the real big challenge the piano presents.

  34. moshe ron

    Must agree with some of the preceding comments: Mary Lou Williams, John Lewis, Paul Bley, Randy Weston, Jessica Williams not there, but the likes of Bob James, Dave Grusin and even Lyle Mays not only figure, but rank above Andrew Hill!
    I say: No way Jose!

  35. Rodeobo

    Awesome list! I’d have moved Dave Brubeck up the list a bit as he was the first Jazz artist to really help Jazz get into the main stream by aggressively touring the college circuit in the 50’s and popularizing Jazz with the younger crowds. Also… a very important point, he and his band, “The Dave Brubeck Quartet” were the first ones to really compose, promote, and perform very difficult and amazing time signatures that were very progressive for that time. Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright, and Joe Morello, members of the quartet, were progressive too, with Joe really embracing the bizarre time signatures they’d use. Take Five is consistently regarded as the greatest Jazz tune of all time by many. Dave was also the second Jazz artist to be on the cover of Time Magazine, only second to the venerable Louis Armstrong.

  36. Sam

    Richie Beirach???
    Clare Fischer???
    J.P. Johnson?
    Donald Lambert?

    Wtf ppl???

    At least Art is no1, but Oscar, Bud and Bill should be 2,3,4…

  37. Evan Ginzburg

    Lists are worthless when they leave out folk like this: Where’s Sun Ra who was far more influential and certainly more entertaining than the vast amount of folk on this list. Barry Harris? Nina Simone on keys as great a pure pianist as anyone? Billy Taylor? Randy Weston? DON PULLEN who played until his fingers bled? He doesn’t deserve a top 36 spot!?

  38. H Daniel Mujahid

    I really think this is difficult work. Nevertheless, we must find a way to include several outstanding persons not on the list, in my order of priority they are: Johnny O’neal, Phineas Newborn Jr, Terry Pollard and Mulgrew Miller.

  39. H Daniel Mujahid

    I really think this is difficult work. Nevertheless, we must find a way to include several outstanding persons not on the list, in my order of priority they are: Johnny O’neal, Phineas Newborn Jr, Terry Pollard and Mulgrew Miller. In time, Benny Green will need to be on the list as well.

  40. lutzSTÖHR

    The best of all Jazz Pianist ist Keith Jarrett!
    In the combination of musical technique und being a great composer.

  41. JFSC3

    Great list. WK is top ten for me. But the big name often overlooked is Sonny Clark – unmatched feel. Sonny is a “musician’s musician” – he would rank higher if this were polled from a sample only consisting of jazz pianists.

  42. stranger

    Erroll Garner is a forgotten genius, should be placed at no.1 or no.2, his playing range was so wild and his style was so distinctive, his musical ability is outstanding. he was left handed and ambidextrous, he often fuses classical elements into his improvisation, this man really revolutionized jazz piano ,the no.10 Ahmad Jamal said Erroll Garner and Maurice Ravel were the supreme melodists of the 20th century, most of these top jazz pianists list will always be like art tatum- herbie hancock-bill evans so and so, I mean they are good, but people need to listen to more music.

  43. Amano Khambata

    1. Keith Jarrett & Chick Corea
    2. Ketil Bjornstadt
    3. Ahmad Jamal
    4. Joe Zawinul
    5. Herbie Hancock
    6. Claude Bolling
    7. Mc Coy Tyner
    8. Hiromi
    9. Oscar Peterson
    10. Gonzalo Rubalcaba
    ( These are the pianists who define jazz today. The contributions of Duke Ellington, Nat KIng Cole, Scott Joplin, Dave Brubeck, Art Tatum , Brad Mehldau , Nina Simone, Gil Evans, Michel Legrand & Jelly Roll Morton cannot be overestimated )

  44. Kjeld Madsen

    You forgot Kenny Drew and Cecil Tayler should have had a higher range. And Scott Joplin on the list? Lists are silly.

  45. Jaguar

    Being an Old Cool Cat, I think that it is difficult to choose the top 50 let alone 36!
    I have seen live Count Basie, Duke Ellington with their Bands, Earl “Fatha” Hines (Solo).
    Jacques Loussier, John Lewis, Dave Brubeck, Oscar Petersen with their groups. Also worth a mention was Joshua Riffkin playing Scott Joplin. Diana Kroll mentioned by others continues to grow in stature, and should make the top 50. Live for me the Number One spot has to be Earl “Fatha” Hines, I stood behind him, within touching distance, at a Jazz Club in the UK whilst he played “All night long”, (sorry Lionel), thrilling the Club Cats in the 60’s. Old hands playing very sweet music..

  46. Charlie West

    Jessica Williams is not well known by most jazz lovers (though she has released dozens of excellent CDs: She is much admired by jazz pianists and the few jazz radio stations that still exist (e. g., KCSM). I think she should have made the list.

  47. Pete Muller

    It’s a great list, but I’m willing to bet that every time you poll the same people you’d end up with different results. No one has a timeless list of The Greatest. For instance we could compile a list of the best percussive players the list would completely change — if you get my drift.

  48. Robert McKenzie

    Gone but not forgotten is Nat ” king ” Cole, accomplished jazz pianist before his voice overcame the ” 88 .”

  49. ray

    Alan Broadbent, Aaron Diehl, Hiromi,
    there are so many out there. A list of the ten greats certainly would include
    Tatum, Evans, Bud Powell. Shearing, Oscar, Michele Le Grand ( for the few of us who have heard him live).
    Bill Charlap deserves recognition. Monk is in the Pantheon, not for his playing, but for the totality that he brings to the genre

  50. John T. Wilkinson

    I want to add Stevie Wonder… yeah… he’s not be bopping or doing fancy jazz rifts… but no one can play like him nor can anyone have thought of the insanely beautiful and complex phrasing. And quite frankly I tire of “patterns” that a few of the persons above play over and over and over and over… regardless of how technically difficult they are to execute.

  51. Gary Gardner

    Where’s Dave Brubeck and Nat King Cole? They surely must be up there with the best. Brubeck was one of the most innovative pianists of his time. Nat king Cole was a jazz pianist before he became a singer. So please give credit where credit is due.

  52. Dan Waldis

    I think there are two important ones missing. First, Lennie Tristano had a bigger influence on jazz piano than most people think about. Tristano contributed some extremely interesting rhythmic perspectives.

    Secondly, Clare Fischer had a huge influence, and no one (as far as I could see) has mentioned him. Herbie Hancock, several times during interviews, has given Clare credit for a significant part of his harmonic knowledge. Clare’s vocal arrangements were unique, beginning with the Hi-Lo’s. :And he used all that harmonic knowledge in his playing.

  53. Bruce Colman

    Hank Jones much, much higher…and I’m the biggest Basie fan you can imagine, but don’t believe as a PLAYER he rates with players who were or are featured in trios and quartets…as some have said, Mary Lou Williams should be in here.

  54. Bruce Colman

    does anyone think Herbie should be moved lower for inflicting “Watermelon Man” on the world–and still playing it in public in the 20-teens? (but he IS one of the great interviews, commentators, raps, talkers in the jazz world…and, in the 1960s, helped direct where the music would go.)

  55. Keith Dubois

    Wow, Bill Evans before Oscar Peterson. Even Bill wouldn’t agree with that. Certainly Fats Waller should have been further up the list, and what about James P. Johnson, who’s name should have gone above Waller’s. There’s also seminal figure Jelly Roll Morton, flamboyant nemesis of Jame P. Speaking of nemesis about how could you forget Donald Lambert one of Art Tatum’s rivals, I know a little to obscure for you. How was Phineas Newborn, adversary of Oscar Peterson left of the list, or Al Haig or Lenny Tristano, or Clyde Hart or Kenny Drew., just to name a few. Hampton Hawes is another deserving pianist who both Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson admired so greatly. Why is Bud Powell rated so low when most pianist during his time “and much later” tried to emulate him.? How Nat King Cole was left out boggles the mind, he was only crucial in developing the Jazz trio, a format that made Bill Evans and so many others so popular.

    1. Rolf Westerberg

      Bill Evans is the greatest of all jazzpinaist.Oscar Petersson as you mentionedmissused his tecnical ability.and his playing sterotype and you could foresight until boring.what happens.Bill evans had an nusicality creativity and a deep the is unmatched by any player.His beautifully sound and inovativ chord and sofisticated rythm was outstanding.He manged to allways play with such an high level despite his drug problem.He was a genious that contributed to the music as the great classical composers

  56. Tom Randall

    Lenny Tristano? Oh, I know. Lenny Tristano! How about Lenny Tristano? Or Dave McKenna. Don Shirley? Not sure what category he goes in. Nat King Cole was marvelous.
    And now heresy time. Tatum’s technique was phenomenal. Second to none. But his playing is mechanical and soulless. After hearing a few songs I just want to move on to someone with with some heart in their playing. I’d listen to just about anyone else on the list before Tatum.

  57. John Preece

    Lists are always subjective, I rate McPartland Peterson and Waller very highly. McPartland because apart from her undoubted talent she was very gracious when I spoke to her between sets at the Hickory House. At 88 yrs I have heard most of the musicians on the various lists. I told Benny Green that so much of the music around the 60’s was musicians music, he told me how difficult a particular note was, but hey, I just like the sound . By the way nobody has mentioned George Zack, his contribution to Muggsies Someday Sweetheart and others really pleased me.
    While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, everyone hears beautiful music as it appeals to their ear.

  58. Paul Alsing

    I can’t believe that Dorothy Donegan has not been mentioned at all! This amazing musician has got to be the most overlooked jazz pianist of all time!

  59. James D'Olimpio

    Agree with many comments,especially Marion MacPartland. and Vince Guaraldi.And did I miss Dr Billy Taylor?What about George Gershwin? And Nat Cole ? The list goes on ,doesnt it?

  60. charlie

    I would have included John Lewis and everybody has their own list but this is YOUR list so there should be no criticism at all. Nobody can make a favorite list for someone else. If you made this list top 100 there would still be people with their favorites not on it. You explained that in the beginning so there should be no complaining. I did pick up a few names that I will make an effort to find for my own listening pleasure.


    Johnny Costa is comparable to Art Tatum. I don’t see him on the list, maybe he’s 37 and there isn’t any room for him.Some pianist’s here are GOOD but not great. Costa Is GREAT. Check out his FLYING FINGER”S CD. DAN CELLI.

  62. Ben Shaw

    From the early 30’s to the late 40’s boogie woogie was a commercial force in jazz. My list:
    1. Meade Lux Lewis
    2. Pete Johnson
    3. Albert Ammons
    4. Jimmy Yancey
    5. Mary Lou Williams
    6. Freddie Slack
    7.Alan Toussant
    8.Pinetop Smith
    9. Hazel Scott
    10. Art Hodes

  63. RICK

    Erroll Garner, Dave Brubeck, “Count” Basie, “Fats ” Waller & “Duke” Ellington not in the top ten….”SCANDALOUS” ! Who conducted this survey ? A bunch of rock musicians ?????

  64. Bill

    You made an attempt that is insurmountalble for each have left an indubitable mark on jazz from Tatum to Evans to Brubeck to Jamal………but Chick……come on.

  65. Peter Calascione

    As with all harmonic instruments (and probably even melodic ones) there are so many elements in playing them). Probably, the pianoforte is the most complex in terms of expression – so I am quite unsure about the validity of “the greatest piano player”. Greatest how; for what?
    There are a few names missing on your list, such as Vince Guaraldi, Russ Freeman, Dudley Moore, Egberto Gismonti, Claude Bolling; each of these have special talents that deserve mention.
    In short, I suggest you might devise a poll based on categories – such as as harmonic creativity, melodic creativity, originality, interpretation, composition and form building, playing technique, influence on other musicians etc etc

  66. BrooklynG

    I love Monk, but respectfully disagree about placing him at #2. As Leonard Feather wrote in The Encyclopedia of Jazz when ranking pianists, Monk’s influence was primarily as a composer and a leader, not an instrumentalist.

  67. Peter Calascione

    Further to my earlier comment:

    If there is one piano player who, in my opinion, comes out tops in all categories it has to be
    the astounding Bill Evans.
    OK – Keith Jarrett a close second; Art Tatum for playing technique; Erroll Garner for sheer swing;
    Michel Petrucciani for lyrical style; Thelonious Monk for innovation – but there’s more, of course,
    and Oscar Peterson has had his moments (Blues for the Prairies, Hogtown Blues etc) – his rubato is pretty good too.

  68. Jay Nelson

    1 Bill Evans
    2 Thelonious Monk
    3 Ahmad Jamal
    4 Dave Brubeck
    5 Oscar Peterson
    6 Red Garland
    7 Bud Powell
    8 Keith Jarrett
    9 Art Tatum
    10 Chick Corea
    11 Duke Ellington
    12 Fats Waller
    13 Count Basie
    14 Earl Hines
    15 Jelly Roll Morton
    16 Herbie Hancock
    17 Vince Guaraldi
    18 Tommy Flanagan
    19 McCoy Tyner
    20 Horace Silver
    21 Teddy Wilson
    22 Joe Zawinul
    23 George Shearing
    24 Bob James
    25 Kenny Kirkland
    26 James P Johnson
    27 Wynton Kelly
    28 Ramsey Lewis
    29 Scott Joplin
    30 Hank Jones
    31 Michel Petrucciani
    32 Sonny Clark
    33 Lyle Mays
    34 Cecil Taylor
    35 Dave Grusin

  69. Gilad

    First of all, there is a severe under-representation of brilliant, young pianists: Hiromi, Jason Moran, Robert Glasper, Brad Mehldau, Fabian Almazan, Bill Laurance, Cory Henry, James Francies, Tigran Hamasyan, perhaps even the Wunderkind Joey Alexander. And from the older (but still highly active!) one should mention Eliane Elias, Chucho Valdes, Uri Caine. The problem with lists like this is that they draw a stagnant picture of a very vibrant art. Jazz is not a relic, it’s alive and kicking (and in new directions!).

  70. Pål Westerbeek

    Let’s take the white keys on the piano too? Plenty more good jazzpianists! I give you two european pianists: Jan Johansson, Sweden and Louis van Dyke from Holland.

  71. Pål Westerbeek

    Let’s take the white keys on the piano too? Plenty more good jazzpianists! I give you two european pianists: Jan Johansson, Sweden and Louis van Dyke from Holland.

  72. Ben

    Art Tatum definitely #1. I would not put Monk at #2. Also, McCoy should be higher ranking than #6. Maybe swap with Monk…
    But, still a pretty good list of all the greats I know of. Thank you!

  73. joseph cavano

    Of course then there is Erroll Garner. Downgraded by some because he was accepted by the unwashed masse and not given to pontification about the very real profound nature of jazz, he is hardly to blame that playing piano came so effortlessly to him or that he always believed audiences should be entertained. Hell, he was playing the most complex chords and rhythmns long before self-described experts got around to giving them names.
    Sometimes I think Garner was not human. It was as if in some deep, dismal basement some music happy monster of an inventor asembled all those traits needed to master the piano and placed them inside the Elf’s five foot two frame. Garner’s ear for music was legendary. He did not have to rely on playing set riffs and pretending it was improvisation. He merely heard a song in his head and made up the new melody using that tune alone. As to rhythmn, as they say in NY,” Forget about it”. He was completely ambidextrous and playing three against fours etc ( a horror to most human pianists) was like taking candy from a baby to him. He swung like no other. Check out Ellington’s and Juan Tizol’s Caravan if you want to see what it is like to muscially pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time.
    Sure some of the more obvious and elememtary things he did on piano could be imitated by lesser pianists. Taken as a whole , however, I doub t there has ever been as spontaneously creative a pianist as Erroll Garner.
    Some scientists claim if you put a monkey at a typewriter and gave him 100,000 years or so, he would eventually write MacBeth or Romeo and Juliet.
    I’m pretty confident it will be just as long before we have another Erroll Garner.

  74. somedrunkbloke

    You forgot to include Mal Waldron and Paul Bley.

    1 Thelonious Monk
    2 Andrew Hill
    3 McCoy Tyner
    4 Mal Waldron
    5 Paul Bley
    6 Cecil Taylor
    7 Every other jazz pianist

  75. Thaddeus Lovelock

    I enjoy Monk’s music but I wouldn’t put him at number two. Probably top ten. There were better pure piano players. But Art definitely deserves to be number one.

  76. Red Daddio

    Lists such as these are never definitive but are made to be debated and argued; to think of them in any other way is pointless. My take-away is we can enjoy live music from several ‘all-time’ greats – Ahmad, Chick, Keith, McCoy, Herbie –whether they are Top 10 or not is irrelevant.

  77. Michael Chesler

    Alexander Von Schlippenbach, Aki Takase, Marilyn Crispell, Paul Bley, Joel Futterman, Connie Crothers, Stanley Cowell, Sun Ra, Fred Van Hove, Mal Waldron, Misha Mengelberg, Don Pullen, Alice Coltrane and so many more. AND WHEN WILL MOSAIC MOVE FORWARD WITH ANY OF THESE ARTISTS, PLEASE??? Can we move beyond the Count Basie, Benny Goodman, The 1940’s-50’s and at least start looking at free jazz in a meaningful way? Ok, you gave us a Braxton and Threadgill set..MORE???

  78. Bob Matthews

    Another vote for Al Haig.
    Al Haig was Bud Powell’s favorite pianist. “He’s my idea of a perfect pianist.”

  79. Martin Davidson

    My top 14 jazz pianists in alphabetical order, based on 60 years of listening:
    Paul Bley
    Eddie Costa
    Hasaan Ibn Ali
    Earl Hines
    James P Johnson
    Thelonious Monk
    Jelly Roll Morton
    Herbie Nichols
    Bud Powell
    Art Tatum
    Cecil Taylor
    Stan Tracey
    Lennie Tristano
    Richard Twardzik

  80. John Burton

    How about the five best who are not on the list:

    Lennie Tristan
    Dick Twardsik
    Phineas Newborn
    Kenny Drew
    Kenny Barron

  81. Jim Millett

    Have never really understood the Art Tatum worship. He had a flashy technique with all those runs and arpeggios, but I’ve never heard him swing. A list like this is never going to please anyone. A brilliant musician like Marian McPartland being left off is inexcusable. And no Billy Taylor? Anyway, the list is an interesting exercise because it makes one think.

  82. Michael von Winterfeldt

    first, it is totally wrong to make up a “Top Ten List” of pianists, jazz or classical. Pianists are musicians and musicians are artists and not marathon runners, tennis players or race car drivers.
    Second, nobody remembers Mel Powell and Johnny Guarnieri? The list should be extended to at least 88 names without ranking them. Pianists as any other professional musician are certainly competing with their art yet not for being ranked but for getting loved, respected, and paid well for their performances!

  83. Elliot

    Phineas Newborn -John Lewis-Billy Strayhorn -should be in the top 10 – 15.
    Oscar Peterson number 2 after Art Tatum.
    I am glad that The Count and the Duke are in the top. It seems that they get forgotten as pianists
    Piano has so many fantastic players that for me I have a huge amount of favorites.
    Oh yea don’t forget Bobby Timmons!!!!!

  84. Sanford Josephson

    Any list without Billy Taylor has no credibility. Would also have included Bobby Timmons, Marian McPartland, Mary Lou Williams, Dick Hyman, Bill Charlap. To me, Keith Jarrett is very overrated.

  85. Dirk Meijer

    Myra Melford is missing, and yes Diana Krall belongs there. She has listen very good to Gene Harris, but nevertheless, “Live in Paris” proves she is a very good piano player. Mulgrew Miller needs to be in there definitively. Fred Hersch is missing.

  86. Elliot

    Kenny Barron-Mal Waldron-Dick Hyman -Alan Broadbent-Jess Stacy–Marian McPartland
    Roger Kellaway-Ray Bryant – etc etc etc
    I bet jazz lovers could come with a 100’s of great pianists but of course the one’s at the top
    won’t change it just the way it is.
    We are all very lucky and should be grateful for so much great music!!!

  87. Dr Paul Winson

    Al Haig – A master jazz pianist
    Acknowledged by the inventors of modern jazz, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell -and Stan Getz – as their first choice
    A beautiful filigree touch, consistent and even fingering, and excellent pedalling
    Swings effortlessly at any tempo, never thumps the instrument, as do inferior pianists . Unparalled accompanying for horns and singers
    Created and delightful improvisations that remain engaged with the melody but are always resolved at conclusion
    For more insight on the man and insight into his music, see ‘The Death of A Bebop Wife’ Grange Rutan for further insighet into Haig

  88. JohnE

    Disappointing to see that no one has mentioned Satoko Fujii so far. Extraordinarily versatile, and a composer/arranger as well as a piano player.

  89. John R

    I agree with the many serious ommissions mentioned by others. First and foremost, Phineas Newborn Jr. When Memphis musicians and friends of Newborn first heard players like Bud Powell, they were not impressed because anything Bud did, Newborn could do more easily. He was described by Leonard Feather in the 1950’s as the greatest American born pianist of his day (after Art died).

    I also am shocked that there are no women on this list. Any of these women in my opinion were superior to several names on this list: Marian McPartland, Mary Lou Williams, Joanne Brackeen, Renee Rosnes, Eliane Elias, Geri Allen, Jessica Williams, Hiromi, and a few others.

    Also some pianists from outside the U.S. have to be given serious consideration: Gonzalo Rubalcaba (unbelievable chops and ideas), Eldar Djangirov (I heard and hung out with him when he was still in his teens–made me want to quit playing), Tete Montoliu, Bobby Enriquez (amazing Filipino pianist not mentioned once in this thread), Adam Makowicz (from Poland–I also saw him live and hung out with him. Not mentioned by anyone in this thread), Marian Petrescu (unbelievable), Michel Camilo.

    Yes let’s expand this to 88 pianists and not rank them.

  90. Olav

    “So just who are the greatest jazz pianists?”
    The question is ridiculous, because it is impossible to answer.
    How to compare Oscar Peterson and Thelonious Monk?!

  91. John

    It is actually not a bad list. Of course, there has to be an element of subjectivity and many of the pianists who didn’t make the list could have been there. Oscar Peterson is much too high for my taste. While Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner certainly deserve to be there, they should not be in front of Bud Powell.

  92. Maurice Gawronsky

    Throughout my musical career my favourite pianists were Wynton Kelley Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans

  93. mark borowsky

    I am impressed that Art Tatum is number one ( no argument here ), and that Fats Waller and James P. Johnson made the lst, although they should both be much higher. Tough to include Joplin, who, although he was a great composer, and, arguably the first , left no recordings, save for his ( no doubt edited ) piano roll of Maple Leaf Rag.

  94. David Norum

    As one of the great Monk fans of all-time, owning every single one of his recordings (okay not the very latest film music release yet, but until then) having an all-Monk ensemble in college that I arranged 35 of his comps for, and my primary influence as a jazz pianist, to rank him #2 jazz pianist is crazy. If you take into account his composing and his position as a pioneer of bebop he should certainly be near the top but as pianist solely, not #2, really not Top 10. As far a people who were left off the list Jessica WIlliams (another Monk aficionado) deserves a serious consideration.

  95. David Norum

    Anyone else own the album Mingus Plays Piano? There is some terrific stuff there, let’s say he maybe could have snuck into the Top 36 if he focused on piano instead of bass, not chops wise but getting music out of those 88 keys wise. Very under-appreciated album.

  96. riccardo castanea

    so you include Duke Ellington and keep out BILLY STRAYHORN an RED GARLAND??? agree bout the first ten

  97. Bruce Snyder

    Really like the different posts mentioning those left off the list, especially the more “obscure” and “forgotten” players like Bobby Enriquez (who I vividly remember seeing at Newport) and Dorothy Donnegan. I might add to that list, Hazel Scott, Horace Tapscott and Bobby Scott (puns? intended).

  98. David FT

    I’m far from being a fan of this kind of lists. Anyway I’m positive that Tete Montoliu should be somewhere in this list.

  99. Jack Nordine

    You have Bob James and Cecil Taylor on this list, but you do not have Elmo Hope? You should be ashamed!


    DID YOU INCLUDE DAVE MCKENNA? He had the most awesome LEFT HAND of any of them..and NEWSWEEK BACK IN THE LATE 70s called him the greatest jazz pianist IN AMERICA!

  101. Max

    Dave Grusiin and Bob James? As already pointed out by other folks here, there a few important omissions: Mal Waldron, Brad Mehldau, Don Friedman, Barry Harris, Lenny Tristano, Mary Lou Williams, Marian McParland……. . Next thing someone is going to put Kenny G in the same category as Steve Lacey and Dave Liebman for best Jazz soprano sax !?

  102. Chuck Sutherland

    You missed Dave Zoller. One of the true greats. Finishing work on a Theloneous Monk anniversary album. He is amazing!

  103. Steven Tarlow

    Perhaps this list should have gone with 88, still matching the number of keys. Too many great ones left off, as mentioned in the comments. If you needed to make some room in the 36 for the glaring omissions, conisder removing Shearing, Mays, Grusin and James.

  104. Lyon francois

    Sans vouloir oublier le passé, (je me souviens des concert live de Michel a Miramas et sur le port de Cassis)…
    S l’on se concentrait un peu sur les pianistes actuels; certes il y a la technique pure , mais surtout l’émotion que seuls certains savent transmettre en concert live.
    A.Jahmal, Lyle May, OK, mais aussi Steve Kuhn et encore Omar Sosa (exceptionnel de prestance et d’emotion sur scene)!

  105. Dimitrios

    At least a dozen people complainig that the mediocre Diana Krall didn’t make it in the list yet no one mentions Horace Tapscott. OK.

  106. Marcike

    Missing Mulgrew Miller, Barry Harris, Kenny Barron, Fred Hersh and Don Grolnick from the older generation, Gerald Clayton, Christian Sands, Bill Charlap and Robert Glasper from the younger ones. The ranking is ridiculous (Monk for 2nd etc…) IMO.

  107. Bill Meek

    This is why I’m against lists or tallys of who are the greatest this or that . This all depends on subjective judgments in time and space and who’s doing the judging. These are all all great pianists but there are probably many we never heard of and some who were excluded . No females? BTW, no Denny Zeitlin?

  108. nigel foster

    The Modern Jazz Quartet got me and countless others into modern jazz, as opposed to trad and Dixieland. Where the hell is John Lewis? How could you do this! For shame. For shame.

  109. Virginia

    Bobby Enriquez is my favorite! He’s a wild one! Fast, fast, fast! Others not mentioned: Monty Alexander, Roger Kellaway, Billy Taylor, Dave McKenna, Gene Harris, Steve Kuhn

  110. Christopher Terry

    Aw, man. Have you got no heart? No Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson? Magicians of the boogie woogie. Bringers of joy.

  111. Marc De Mey

    I can spot most of the pianists I like, but if the number of albums in my collection is a good parameter I’m missing Monty Alexander. He gave (and still gives me) the largest goose bumps.

  112. Svend-Erik Otto

    I´ll miss Eddie Haywood, and as pianoplayer Nat King Cole, and last – Slim Gaillard, not for his skills but for make me happy, with his swing drive. Love him

  113. Steven Brooke

    Underrated: Wynton Kelly and Red Garland…and where is Cedar Walton?
    Way overrated: Chick Corea, Dave Brubeck, Ramsey Lewis

  114. Dan Tubbs, Jr.

    Jessica Williams is one of the most under appreciated jazz pianists today. She has performed with other amazing musicians for years, and I only recently discovered her. She is a creative heart and soul jazz pianist.

  115. Jerry Lipkins

    There is no best jazz pianists in this world but one fucking dangerous fucking idiot who got the pretension to class them .

  116. John Jordan

    Lets not argue about who is missing it is impossible to have all names available, but in real terms in matters not a hoot because Bud Powell and Monk are there.

  117. Preben Kolding

    Considering that both Oscar Peterson and Georg Shearing claim to have been greatly influenced by him I find it strange that Nat King Cole haven´t made your list!

  118. Shomari Adofo

    Barry Harris, should be in the top twenty. John Hicks could really burn the keys, and Brother Newborn, was on par with the great Oscar Peterson.

  119. Randolph

    This is a sorry list of the greatest jazz pianist. how can Chick Correa and Kieth Jarrett be ahead of Earl Hines and Horace Silver. Phineas Newborn is not here.This is total crap.This is posted by some Johnny come Lately.

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