The 50 Best Jazz Pianists Of All Time
From iconic bandleaders to unique talents, the best jazz pianists both shaped the genre and revolutionized the role of the piano in music.
From the smoky jazz clubs of New Orleans to the grand concert halls of New York City, the sound of the piano has always been a cornerstone of jazz music. And there have been some truly legendary jazz pianists who have taken the art form to new heights with their technical skills, innovative improvisation, and sheer passion for the music. In this article, we’ll be celebrating the best of the best, the jazz pianists who have left an indelible mark on the genre and continue to inspire new generations of musicians.
While you’re reading, listen to our Jazz Piano Classics playlist here.
The piano’s importance in jazz stretches back to the time of Scott Joplin, at the turn of the 20th Century, when ragtime – with its jaunty, percussive rhythms – proved an important early building block in the evolution of jazz music.
From ragtime piano came the more sophisticated and virtuosic “stride” style of James P Johnson and Willie “The Lion” Smith – with its locomotive, two-step, left-hand accompaniment – in the 20s and 30s, which in turn led to Fats Waller and ultimately culminated with Art Tatum. Hands down one of the best jazz pianists in history, Tatum was a blind genius who arguably created the most densely polyphonic and sophisticated pre-bebop piano style of all, fusing stride with swing.
In the mid-40s, the bebop revolution, instigated by horn players Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, resulted in a generation of artists (led by Bud Powell) who would enter the ranks of the best jazz pianists with an approach that treated the instrument like a trumpet or saxophone, picking out syncopated right-hand melodies with horn-style phrasing. When the 50s arrived, there were others, such as Bill Evans, who fused the bop aesthetic with a sensibility nurtured on classical and romantic music, producing a densely-harmonized piano style that was supremely lyrical and richly expressive. Evans’ influence – like Bud Powell’s before him – was pervasive, and many future jazz piano stars (from Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea to Keith Jarrett and, more recently, Brad Mehldau) are indebted to him.
The jazz world has produced an abundance of super-talented piano players – many more than can be accommodated in this list of the 50 best jazz pianists of all time. Indeed, whittling it down was not an easy task, but we’ve persevered and come up with a list of names that we believe represent the most important ivory-ticklers of the genre.
In our estimation, here are the 50 best jazz pianists of all time.
50: Lennie Tristano (1919-1978)
Opinions differ on the significance of this blind, Chicago-born pianist who played with Charlie Parker in the late 40s and went on to establish himself as a musician with a unique sound and style. What is certain is that Tristano was an uncompromising innovator whose unorthodox conception of melody and harmony presaged the birth of free jazz. He also experimented with multi-tracking recording in the early 50s – which most jazz musicians considered anathema – by overdubbing improvised piano parts. Tristano was also a noted jazz teacher and it is claimed that his influence affected Miles Davis (on Birth Of The Cool) as well as Dave Brubeck and Gerry Mulligan.
49: Kenny Kirkland (1954-1998)
From Brooklyn, New York, Kirkland had a fruitful association with the Marsalis brothers, Wynton and Branford, in the 80s and 90s, appearing as a sideman on many of their albums. Kirkland also played with jazz greats, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and drummer Elvin Jones, in the 80s, and appeared on five albums by ex-Police frontman, Sting. His own discography contains just one solo album, 1991’s Kenny Kirkland, for GRP, though it’s likely that, had he not died prematurely, aged 43, from congestive heart failure, Kirkland would have recorded many more solo albums.
48: Dave Grusin (born 1934)
A founding father of an accessible, R&B-inflected form of instrumental music called smooth jazz, Grusin is rare among the best jazz pianists for having also set up his own record label, GRP, in 1978. Originally from Colorado, Grusin began releasing piano-led albums under his own name in the early 60s, a decade that also saw him break into the world of television music, where he wrote themes for numerous US TV shows. Grusin went on to become a prolific composer of movie scores (among them On Golden Pond and The Fabulous Baker Boys) and has also released a raft of keyboard-oriented studio albums.
47: Duke Pearson (1932-1980)
Born Columbus Calvin Pearson in Atlanta, Georgia, Pearson’s career took off when he moved to New York City in 1959. That was the year he recorded his debut album for Blue Note, and he went onto become one of the best jazz pianists the iconic label signed. Enjoying a long association with Alfred Lion and Frank Wolff’s outfit, he not only recorded his own music, but worked as an in-house arranger and A&R man. A capable and versatile pianist, Pearson’s own records veered more towards the soul jazz style.
46: Elmo Hope (1923-1967)
A sideman for noted saxophonists Lou Donaldson, Sonny Rollins, Jackie McLean, and Harold Land in the 50s, New Yorker Hope (real name St Elmo Sylvester Hope) was a bebop pianist with a bright sound, dynamic touch, and, like Thelonious Monk, had a penchant for dissonance. He recorded for Blue Note, Prestige, and Pacific Jazz in the 50s. Sadly, his life was blighted by drug addiction, which hastened his premature death at the age of 43.
45: Kenny Barron (born 1943)
As a teacher, this capable Philadelphia pianist can count Maynard Ferguson pianist Earl MacDonald, and recent Blue Note signing Aaron Parks, as his star pupils. Barron’s own career began with sideman stints with Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz. A nine-time Grammy nominee, Barron has been recording since the late 60s and his many collaborators include fellow pianists Tommy Flanagan and Barry Harris. A master who is fluent in both the bebop and post-bop styles, Barron is one of the best jazz pianists alive today.
44: John Lewis (1920-2001)
As one of the charter members of The Modern Jazz Quartet, a pioneering group that fused bebop with classical music aesthetics, Lewis was an influential musician whose gleaming, staccato piano style was indebted to Count Basie and saxophonist Lester Young. Prior to the MJQ, he was a sideman for Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis. Outside of his band, Lewis made many albums under his own name, the earliest in 1955.
43: Harold Mabern (1936-2019)
Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Mabern is unique among the best jazz pianists for having begun as a drummer before switching to piano. Moving to Chicago, and then New York, he was regarded as a go-to sideman in the late 50s and early 60s (playing with the likes of Cannonball Adderley, Jackie McLean, Roland Kirk, and Wes Montgomery) before beginning his own recording career, which started at Prestige Records in 1968. A virtuoso who is fully fluent in bebop, modal, and post-bop jazz styles, Mabern is still actively recording and performing today at the age of 81.
42: Kenny Drew (1928-1993)
New York City-born Drew – who served his musical apprenticeship as a sideman for Buddy DeFranco, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, and Charlie Parker – was a highly-regarded bebop pianist and composer who enjoyed a long and fruitful association with tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon, when both musicians lived in Denmark during the 60s and 70s. Cutting his first solo LP in 1953, Drew recorded regularly for a variety of different labels up until his death. He died and was buried in Copenhagen.
41: Jaki Byard (1922-1999)
An eclectic, versatile pianist who also played saxophone, Massachusetts-born Byard’s own music drew on everything from ragtime to free jazz and also covered all styles in between. He played with trumpeter Maynard Ferguson in the late 50s, but his career really took off when he moved to New York City in the 60s. He spent two years with Charles Mingus, as well as working with Eric Dolphy and Roland Kirk. Though revered by the critics, Byard’s unique sound was less well-received by the public, but he remains one of the best jazz pianists in history, not only because of his impact on jazz in general, but also in relation to his role in the evolution of the piano itself.
40: Cedar Walton (1934-2013)
From Dallas, Texas, as a child this hard bop piano giant was raised on a diet of Art Tatum, Nat “King” Cole, Bud Powell, and Thelonious Monk. Though their music infused Walton’s own style, he found his own voice on the piano and, after a stint with Kenny Dorham, John Coltrane, and The Jazztet, he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1961, going on to cut nine albums with the group. Walton’s own career as a leader began in 1967 and, in the 70s, he dabbled with jazz-funk and fusion. In addition to being a gifted pianist, Walton was also a noted composer, contributing “Bolivia” and “Mode For Joe” to the jazz standards repertoire.
39: Barry Harris (1929-2021)
Born and raised in Detroit, Harris, whose mother played piano in church, was an early starter, taking up his chosen instrument at the age of four. When he was older, he was smitten by jazz and fell under the spell of modernists Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. By the 50s, Harris was a jobbing pianist and worked with Miles Davis, Sonny Stitt, and Gene Ammons; in the 60s he gigged with Cannonball Adderley. Stylistically, Harris is a staunch disciple of hard bop, which is reflected in the horn-like phrasing of his right-hand melodies, complex rhythmic syncopations, and dense harmonization. One of the best jazz pianists still with us from the bebop era.
38: Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981)
Born Mary Elfrieda Scruggs in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in Pittsburgh, Williams was a self-taught pianist who rose to fame as a teenage prodigy in the 20s. By the 30s, she was working as a freelance arranger, writing charts for Earl Hines, Benny Goodman, and, later, Duke Ellington. When bebop arrived, in the mid-40s, she had an affinity for the revolutionary new style, and was a mentor to Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie. A prodigiously talented musician, Williams was an inspirational figure and paved the way for noted contemporary female pianists such as Tania Maria, the late Geri Allen, Eliane Elias, and Diana Krall.
37: Bobby Timmons (1935-1974)
One of a multitude of musicians who came through Art Blakey’s “Hard Bop Academy,” The Jazz Messengers, this Philadelphia musician was the son of a preacher and grew up playing in church. Gospel music left an indelible mark on Timmons and its DNA can be detected in his playing and much of the music he wrote, which included the classic tunes “Moanin’,” “This Here,” and “Dat Dere,” which earned him his place among the best jazz pianists for laying the blueprint for what became known as soul jazz in the late 50s and early 60s. Sadly, Timmons’ career was cut short, at 38, by his chronic alcoholism.
36: Andrew Hill (1931-2007)
Hailing from Chicago, as a boy Hill earned small change playing accordion on the Windy City’s streets. He worked mainly as a sideman in the 50s, but in 1963, after a move to New York, Hill began a long association with Blue Note Records that resulted in 16 albums. Though influenced by Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum, Hill forged his own distinctive and complex style, both as a pianist and composer. His music tended to be chromatic and angular, and while it pushed the barriers, it also remained rooted in jazz tradition.
35: Brad Mehldau (born 1970)
From Jacksonville, Florida, Mehldau is undoubtedly one of the leading pianists in contemporary jazz. Though, compared to many of the best jazz pianists, his influences are wide and varied – ranging from pop, rock, folk, and classical music, to bebop, country, and even electronic music – he has distilled them all into a unique style which is inspired by the lyricism of Bill Evans and spellbinding virtuosic improvisation of Keith Jarrett. Mehldau’s long-running piano trio has also continually broken new ground with its near-telepathic collective improvisation and eclectic repertoire.
34: Cecil Taylor (1929-2018)
A poet as well as a pianist/composer, this New Yorker was a leading light of the avant-garde movement in the late 50s and early 60s. Not for the faint-hearted, Taylor’s energetic style is often fiercely atonal, employing jarring cluster chords and a dense, polyrhythmic complexity. He released his debut LP in 1956 and recorded regularly for a raft of different labels up until 2009.
33: Nat “King” Cole (1919-1965)
Given his fame in the 50s as a pop singer with a silky croon, it’s perhaps not surprising that many often forget that Alabama-born Cole was also one of the best jazz pianists of his time. Starting out playing gospel music on the organ before being formally tutored in piano, Cole was schooled in classical music but quickly gravitated to jazz. He was especially influenced by Earl Hines, whose ornate, heavily embellished approach was the foundation for Cole’s own style, which developed within the confines of his own trio in the 30s and 40s. From 1943 onwards, it was Cole’s voice that drew more acclaim, however, and his success as a singer went on to eclipse his piano playing.
32: Sonny Clark (1931-1963)
Born Conrad Clark, this piano-playing exponent of hard bop from Herminie, Pennsylvania, enjoyed a brief period under the jazz spotlight between 1955 and 1961. Influenced by Bud Powell and noted for his horn-like right-hand melodies, Clark was a sideman for Dinah Washington, Sonny Rollins, and Charles Mingus, and also enjoyed a fecund five-year spell at Blue Note Records, where he served up nine albums, including the classic hard bop manifesto Cool Struttin’. Sadly, Clark was a heroin addict and died, aged 31, from a suspected (but never proven) overdose.
31: Michel Petrucciani (1962-1999)
Despite suffering from a genetic disease that stunted his growth, resulted in brittle bones, and gave him perpetual arm pain, France-born Petrucciani defied the odds to become one of the world’s best jazz pianists, and was inspired to take up the instrument after seeing Duke Ellington on TV. By 13, he was playing professionally, and at 18 recorded the first of many LPs. Though his lyrical approach to the piano was undoubtedly indebted to Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, Petrucciani, who died at 36, nevertheless had an individual sound and style.
30: Hank Jones (1918-2010)
The elder sibling of trumpeter Thad, and drummer Elvin, Jones, this Mississippi-born/Michigan-raised pianist was initially influenced by Earl Hines and Fats Waller, but later fell under bebop’s spell. He recorded with Ella Fitzgerald and Charlie Parker before embarking on a stellar solo career that blossomed in the 50s. Hired for his impeccable musical taste and sonic eloquence, Jones’ myriad sideman credits ranged from Dizzy Gillespie and Dexter Gordon to Anita O’Day and Marilyn Monroe.
29: Scott Joplin (1868-1917)
This Texas pianist’s music was largely forgotten until his tune, “The Entertainer” – which was used on the soundtrack to the 1973 blockbuster film The Sting, starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman – revived interest in his work. In his heyday, in the early years of the 20th Century, Joplin was crowned King Of Ragtime, a jaunty, syncopated style of music that was an amalgam of African-American and Western European music. Though no recordings of Joplin exist, his status as one of history’s best jazz pianists is assured, thanks in part to piano rolls and sheet music from the time, illustrating his unique style, which went on to influence James P Johnson.
28: Ramsey Lewis (1935-2022)
Emerging on Chess Records in the 50s fronting a piano trio, Chicago-born Lewis racked up a trio of finger-clicking crossover pop hits in the mid-60s (the biggest was 1965’s “The In Crowd”) before plugging his piano into the mains socket and going the way of funk and fusion in the 70s. A classically-trained pianist, Lewis fused jazz with rhythm’n’blues and gospel music to forge a distinctive soul jazz style that spawned a host of imitators.
27: Wynton Kelly (1931-1977)
Influenced by Teddy Wilson and Bud Powell, Brooklyn-born Kelly is best remembered for his association with Miles Davis between 1959 and 1961 (he played on the iconic 1959 LP Kind Of Blue). He also recorded a slew of solo albums, all of which highlighted his glistening, horn-like right-hand melodies and penchant for block chordal accompaniment. Contemporary pianists who claim to have been influenced by him include Chick Corea and Brad Mehldau.
26: Willie “The Lion” Smith (1897-1973)
Together with James P Johnson and Fats Waller, William Henry Joseph Bonaparte Bertholoff Smith (to give him his full name) was a noted practitioner of the stride style of playing. Born in New York, he rose to fame in the 20s as an accompanist of blues singers. His propulsive, dynamic style, with its dazzling finger-work, exerted a profound influence on both Duke Ellington’s and George Gershwin’s approach to the piano.
25: James P. Johnson (1894-1955)
This New Jersey pianist helped bridge the transition from ragtime to jazz with his stride piano technique, which built on ragtime’s locomotive, see-saw jauntiness but added more sophisticated harmonies and a stronger blues element. Though his music is mostly forgotten now, Johnson – who was also a noted accompanist for singers Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters – was a pioneer who earns his place among the best jazz singers in part because of his powerful influence over Fats Waller, Count Basie, and Art Tatum.
24: Bob James (born 1939)
Though Missouri-born James is widely acknowledged as one of the founding fathers of smooth jazz, ironically, he began his career in the vanguard of the early 60s avant-garde scene. By the 70s, though, James’ star was on the rise thanks to his being the in-house arranger at producer Creed Taylor’s influential CTI label. He made four hugely popular, radio-friendly albums for CTI, where he established himself as the doyen of a lighter, more accessible version of jazz-fusion. Though he’s an undoubted master of the electric Fender Rhodes keyboard (which dominated his classic 70s records), in recent years James has returned to the acoustic piano.
23: George Shearing (1919-2011)
Blind from birth, the much-honored London-born George Shearing (who, uniquely among the best jazz pianists, was a Sir, having been knighted in 2007) displayed an aptitude for the piano and accordion at an early age. He eked a living as a jobbing pianist for hire until emigrating to the US in 1947, where he quickly made a name for himself with his synthesis of swing, bebop, and elements drawn from classical music. A pioneer of block chords, Shearing’s group – which including the distinctive sound of the vibraphone – became hugely popular and influential in the 50s.
22: Joe Zawinul (1932-2007)
Inspired to take up jazz after hearing Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose,” Austrian-born Zawinul ventured to the US in 1959, where he immediately made his mark as a pianist and composer in Cannonball Adderley’s band. Though Miles Davis tried to poach him (Zawinul worked on Miles’ groundbreaking In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew albums at the end of the 60s), the pianist stayed with Cannonball until 1970 and then co-founded famed fusion pioneers Weather Report.
21: Teddy Wilson (1912-1986)
Dubbed The Marxist Mozart for his espousal of left-wing political causes, Texas-born Theodore Wilson was a virtuosic pianist who gained prominence in the swing era and worked as a sideman with some of the biggest names in jazz, ranging from Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman to Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. He also made many recordings under his own name, but today is mostly remembered as Billie Holiday’s accompanist.
20: Horace Silver (1928-2014)
Born in Connecticut with Cape Verdean ancestry, Horace Silver was an archetypal hard bop pianist whose rise to fame began when he co-founded The Jazz Messengers (which Art Blakey later took over) in 1954. As well as a dexterous pianist who enjoyed a long and fruitful stretch at Blue Note between 1952 and 1980, Silver was a prolific tunesmith (among his most famous compositions is “Song For My Father”).
19: Red Garland (1923-1984)
For a jazz pianist who started out in life as a welterweight boxer, Texas-born William “Red” Garland had a decidedly delicate touch. He played as a sideman for Billy Eckstine and Charlie Parker, and was in bluesman Eddie Vinson’s band alongside a young John Coltrane. His path would cross with Coltrane’s again in the 50s, when both joined Miles Davis’ quintet and made several groundbreaking albums for Prestige and Columbia (among them Workin’ and ’Round About Midnight). Davis liked Garland for his Ahmad Jamal-like lightness of touch and use of space. Another hallmark of the Texan’s singular style was his use of two-handed block chords.
18: Tommy Flanagan (1930-2001)
For many, Detroiter Thomas Lee Flanagan’s name is synonymous with saxophone giant John Coltrane. He played on Trane’s totemic 1960 masterpiece, Giant Steps, and as a sideman also featured on significant LPs by Sonny Rollins (Saxophone Colossus) and guitarist Wes Montgomery (The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery). Describing his approach to piano, Flanagan once said, “I like to play like a horn player, like I’m blowing into the piano.” Though he was a valued sideman, he also made a slew of albums under his own name for a raft of different labels between 1957 and 1997.
17: Erroll Garner (1923-1977)
With his predilection for performing in an ornate style that comprised lush chords, liquid runs and complex syncopations, this Pennsylvanian from Pittsburgh was a child piano prodigy who first recorded in the 40s but blossomed spectacularly in the 50s. He would arguably earn his place among the best jazz pianists solely for giving the jazz world the perennially popular standard “Misty,” which he composed in 1954 and recorded many times thereafter. Arguably the most compelling album he made was 1955’s classic Concert By The Sea, which captures Garner in all his glory.
16: Dave Brubeck (1920-2012)
One of an elite handful of jazz artists to score a big crossover pop hit in the 60s (“Take Five”), California-born Brubeck, who grew up on a ranch, studied to be a vet but switched to music during college. A near-fatal diving accident in 1951 caused nerve damage to Brubeck’s hands and changed the way he played piano, where fleet-of-finger lines were replaced by dense block chords. Even so, Brubeck could still play with imagination and elegance, and often composed music using unusual and asymmetrical time signatures.
15: Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941)
Given that he once claimed to have singlehandedly invented jazz, modesty was most certainly not a recognizable trait in the character of this New Orleans pianist born Ferdinand LeMothe – though he wholly deserves recognition among the best jazz pianists. As both a composer and arranger, Morton was a seminal figure in the development of early jazz – among his most famous recordings is “Black Bottom Stomp” – and he was also a noted pianist whose propulsive, jaunty style grew out of ragtime and anticipated the stride development.
14: Earl Hines (1903-1983)
From Duquesne, Pennsylvania, Earl “Fatha” Hines was a key figure in the evolution of jazz piano-playing. He started as an orthodox stride-style player but soon introduced innovations. In a bid to be heard in a big band ensemble, Hines began articulating melodies with octaves (or what he called “trumpet notes”), as well as using a tremolo effect (a rapid alternation of two notes). Though he began his recording career in 1923, he was able to adapt to changing styles in jazz and kept recording until 1981. A jazz piano colossus.
13: Count Basie (1904-1984)
Like fellow jazz aristocrat Duke Ellington, Count Basie’s prowess at the piano was often eclipsed by his role as a successful bandleader. Originally from Red Bank, New Jersey, Bill Basie rose to fame during the big-band swing epoch with popular tunes such as “One O’clock Jump.” He usually led from the piano, adhering to a minimalistic less-is-more aesthetic and employing forceful percussive accenting and octaves so that his bluesy notes cut through the full band sound.
12: Fats Waller (1904-1943)
Native New Yorker Thomas “Fats” Waller didn’t live to see his 40th birthday (he succumbed to pneumonia at 39), but nevertheless proved to be an influential pianist, particularly for his contribution to the evolution of the highly rhythmic stride style, an important foundation stone in jazz piano. Waller was also an organist and composer whose repertoire included the immortal tunes “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Honeysuckle Rose.”
11: Duke Ellington (1899-1974)
It’s often overlooked that Washington, DC-born Edward Kennedy Ellington was a tremendous jazz pianist with his own inimitable style. That’s because Ellington earned greater fame as a popular bandleader and composer during the big band swing era of the 30s. There are a few solo piano entries in the jazz aristocrat’s extensive discography (most notably, perhaps, 1953’s The Duke Plays Ellington) that reveal the full extent of Ellington’s skills.
10: Ahmad Jamal (born 1930)
Pittsburgh-born Ahmad Jamal possesses a delicate, nimble touch and intuitively knows how to use space to good effect. It was the latter quality that made Miles Davis such a big fan of his music in the 50s, attempting to replicate Jamal’s light piano style in his groups of that era. Jamal first recorded for OKeh in 1951, but it was later in the same decade when took his position among the best jazz pianists of all time, with the best-selling live album At The Pershing, which took his music to a larger audience. A master of musical understatement.
9: Chick Corea (1941-2021)
Like Keith Jarrett, Armando “Chick” Corea, from Chelsea, Massachusetts, was an early starter – he began playing piano aged four – and later rose to fame as a sideman with the great Miles Davis (replacing Herbie Hancock). Though influenced by the romanticism of Bill Evans, there’s always been a palpable Latin inflection to Corea’s music, which has ranged from straight-ahead jazz to electric fusion (he led the jazz-rock behemoth Return To Forever in the 70s).
8: Keith Jarrett (born 1945)
From Allentown, Pennsylvania, Keith Jarrett started playing piano at the age of two and rapidly blossomed into a precociously gifted child prodigy steeped in classical music. As a teenager, Jarrett was seduced by jazz and quickly became fluent in its idiom. He played with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the mid-60s before joining the groups of Charles Lloyd and, later, Miles Davis. In the 70s, at ECM Records, Jarrett – eschewing electric instruments – patented a lyrical style and, in the same decade, released an improvised solo recital called The Köln Concert, which set a new benchmark for unaccompanied jazz piano. An intrepid improviser whose imagination knows no bounds.
7: Bud Powell (1924-1966)
This Harlem-born musician was the first pianist to approach the piano as if it were a horn instrument. Though he gleaned much from the left-hand stride-style of Art Tatum, alto saxophonist and bebop architect Charlie Parker was Bud Powell’s main inspiration. As a result, Powell proved highly influential, even though his career was short (he died aged 41, after years of mental health problems). The missing link between Art Tatum and bebop, his status as one of the best jazz pianists of all time is forever assured.
6: McCoy Tyner (1938-2020)
From Philadelphia, McCoy Tyner rose to fame as a member of John Coltrane’s groundbreaking quartet between 1960 and 1965, playing on the saxophonist’s iconic 1965 album, A Love Supreme. An exponent of modal jazz with a passion for blues, Tyner’s main hallmark is using chords with prominent fourths. He also often attacks the piano with brute force, though he can also play with extreme delicacy, employing staccato right-hand runs. After Coltrane, Tyner established himself as one of contemporary jazz’s pre-eminent pianists with a series of astounding albums for Blue Note and, later, Milestone.
5: Oscar Peterson (1925-2007)
Originally from Quebec, Canada, Peterson was a classically-trained child prodigy who fell under the influence of Art Tatum and Nat “King” Cole. He made his first recording in 1945, but it was in the 50s, after he joined jazz impresario Norman Granz’s Verve label and led a piano trio, that he became a household name. Renowned for ornate filigrees and a hard-swinging style, Peterson was a dextrous improviser.
4: Herbie Hancock (born 1940)
Though he’s flirted with funk, dabbled with disco, and even dallied with electro and hip-hop (exemplified by his 1983 global hit, “Rockit”), at heart this Chicago-born musical chameleon is a committed jazz pianist. Though influenced by Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock forged his own style in the 60s, both as a solo artist and as a member of Miles Davis’ pathfinding post-bop quintet. Though he’s almost 80, Hancock still has the musical inquisitiveness of a teenager.
3: Bill Evans (1929-1980)
A troubled soul, this New Jersey pianist was plagued with drug addiction problems throughout his adult life and professional career, but it didn’t stop him producing a remarkably beautiful and consistent body of work. Reflective romantic ballads with lush chords were his undoubted forte, but Evans – who drew on both bebop and classical music for inspiration – could also swing with verve, especially in a live setting. (Start with his legendary trio recordings with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian, like Sunday at the Village Vanguard or Waltz for Debby for evidence of both.) Myriad pianists have fallen under Evans’ spell, including Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, and, more recently, Brad Mehldau.
2: Thelonious Monk (1917-1982)
Misunderstood by many, this North Carolina-born maverick (who was rarely seen without a hat) is one of the most idiosyncratic of the world’s best jazz pianists. Emerging in the bebop dawn of the mid-to-late 40s, he pursued his own idiosyncratic path, creating a unique musical universe where angular but hummable melodies, dissonant cluster chords, and a lightly-swinging rhythmic pulse ruled. As a composer, Monk contributed several standards to the jazz songbook – including “’Round Midnight” and “Straight, No Chaser” – and, as a keyboardist, recorded several albums of unaccompanied piano, including the classic Thelonious Alone In San Francisco.
1: Art Tatum (1909-1956)
At the pinnacle of our list of the 50 best jazz pianists of all time is the man regarded as a keyboard deity. Visually impaired from infancy, Ohio-born Art Tatum learned to play the piano by ear as a child and, blessed with perfect pitch, quickly excelled at the instrument. He patented a technically advanced, uniquely florid style from an early age that melded elements from stride, swing and classical music. Though hugely influential – Oscar Peterson was one of his prime disciples – Tatum’s life came to an end shortly after his 47th birthday.
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September 29, 2015 at 4:13 pm
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.
October 26, 2015 at 2:11 am
Did someone forget Marian McPartland? Mary Lou Williams? Patrice Rushin? Diana Krall? Lil’ Hardin’?…
January 15, 2016 at 2:15 pm
Diana Krall? Seriously? Just because she’s a woman? Even she wouldn’t think she should be on this list!
June 29, 2016 at 11:28 pm
Eddie, you need to give Diana Krall another listen. She’s an awesome pianist.
Alexander Jeffrey Aerni
June 30, 2016 at 12:53 am
Plus, Diana Krall happens to be married to my favorite musical artist of all time, Mr. Elvis Costello!
December 15, 2016 at 7:35 pm
I dont think so 🙁 she is a fake
September 7, 2017 at 11:58 am
Amen to that…She;s a terrific pianist…
June 30, 2016 at 10:23 am
June 30, 2016 at 10:26 am
October 23, 2016 at 2:30 pm
AMEN to Mary Lou Williams!
March 29, 2019 at 3:40 pm
Totally agree about Mary Lou Williams and Marian McPartland. And can’t believe you didn’t include Ellis Larkins aka Mr. Feather Fingers.
October 24, 2016 at 6:21 pm
While I don’t agree with all the choices/rankings (who does??) I agree Diana Krall does not belong anywhere near this list.
Diana fuking Krall
February 25, 2018 at 6:29 am
While i appreciate most opinions, you dont belong anywhere on this planet.
September 15, 2019 at 2:52 pm
I highly doubt it that you are the REAL Diana Krall.
November 9, 2017 at 1:55 am
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.
November 10, 2017 at 12:54 am
And Joanne Brackeen as well!
November 10, 2017 at 11:57 am
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.
March 31, 2018 at 12:13 am
POR LO VISTO NO ENTRAN MUJERES, LAS MENCIONADAS Y HAZEL SCOTT
September 15, 2019 at 2:44 pm
Diana Krall is a great singer but just a slightly above average jazz pianist.
October 26, 2015 at 11:19 pm
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
November 10, 2017 at 12:55 am
Totally agree.He should be there.
September 15, 2019 at 2:50 pm
I was shocked to see Oscar at only #5.
I had a few jazz theory classes with Oscar in 1985/86 at York University and I shall always cherish the moment when he shook my hand after playing a guitar solo.
June 30, 2016 at 12:03 am
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.
July 16, 2016 at 3:06 am
Phineas Newborn Jr should, of course,…. etc.,etc.
After Tatum, Monk, Lyrical Bill, there is a swarm of fine contenders. Enjoy.
RICHARD D JACKSON
October 28, 2018 at 3:43 am
I love Bill Evans but he was not better then Bud Powell or Oscar Peterson! They have him ranked a little too high. He’s in my top 5.
June 30, 2016 at 9:39 pm
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!
September 18, 2019 at 1:22 pm
Lennie Tristano is #50.
September 7, 2017 at 6:43 pm
Earl Hines would hold the No.1 spot for me. Another who could really deliver when the atmosphere was just right was Dorothy Donegan.
October 13, 2019 at 5:04 pm
Agree on “Fatha.” Top five at least.
MR. AL GEE
September 9, 2017 at 3:23 pm
What about Milt Buckner, Shirley Horn, Beegie Adair, Diana Krall, Joe Sample ??
March 30, 2018 at 7:54 am
September 16, 2019 at 2:24 pm
Hey Charles. You have the same last name of another great pianist not mentioned on the list: DON THOMPSON.
Yes, he diversifies his talent with bass and vibes but still deserves to be on the list of the greatest pianists.
September 16, 2019 at 2:37 pm
For the record Charles Thompson is the very first person to comment on this list.
Edgar (Red) Martin
February 11, 2020 at 12:06 am
How about Monty Alexander, Nina Simone, Dr Billy Taylor, Les McCann, Denny Zeitlin & Organist, Jimmy Smith? (I think Marylou Williams should be rated higher)
October 7, 2020 at 7:34 pm
absolutely totally agree with this…Phineas one of the all time greats
September 29, 2015 at 5:14 pm
the list includes a great pianists, but what about mal waldron, jaki byard, bobby timmons, paul bley, cedar walton, sun ra, alice coltrane?
September 29, 2015 at 10:32 pm
Thanks. Rodney Walton (Cedar’s son).
February 16, 2019 at 11:54 am
Cedar was awesome.Listen to him all the time.Always inventive, always funky. Maestro, no question. Respect from England.
September 29, 2015 at 11:44 pm
Yes you’re right
! What about them? They have been forgotten in the list?
September 30, 2015 at 1:40 am
exact omissions i was thinking!
October 27, 2015 at 7:04 am
Mal Waldron should just be in the top 5. And I am surprised that Brad Mehldau was not mentioned …
October 1, 2019 at 3:28 am
I guess you are glad that MICHEL PETRUCCIANI is on the list.
He was born in France but with a last name like that, his father probably is/was (?) Italian.
I am 50% Italian myself. My other 50% is Polish (some people call me a POWOP).
April 30, 2020 at 2:08 am
illaysabag – What does your moniker mean? You’re always in the bag? Because all those pianists you mention as in”but what about?”, are all on this list,except for Alice Coltrane. I can’t be bothered rereading to make sure I am absolutely right, because nothing is going to help you.
September 29, 2015 at 5:24 pm
No Sun Ra? Something is very wrong here.
September 29, 2015 at 6:32 pm
ridiculous list: Crusin, Kirkland, all these “Jazzrock” losers. And there are people like von Schlippenbach, Tippett, Mengelberg, Morab, Ivers…
September 29, 2015 at 6:32 pm
ridiculous list: Crusin, Kirkland, all these “Jazzrock” losers. And there are people like von Schlippenbach, Tippett, Mengelberg, Moran, Ivers…
September 30, 2015 at 7:55 pm
Would love to be a ‘loser’ the way Kenny Kirkland was…:)…
October 27, 2015 at 12:24 pm
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!!
September 8, 2017 at 10:48 pm
I knew Kenny very well when we were students at MSM…Most important he was a wonderful soul who made you feel important….
January 15, 2016 at 5:27 pm
Kirkland a jazz rock loser? Pfft
September 29, 2015 at 6:54 pm
Whenever I scroll through these lists I am pleased to find my CD collection has so many of the folks listed!!
September 29, 2015 at 7:15 pm
No Ellis Larkins? List seems a bit sexist. No Marion McPartland? Barbara Carroll?
September 29, 2015 at 8:20 pm
Sexist indeed! How come no mention of Eliane Elias, Diane Schuur, Blossom Dearie?
September 30, 2015 at 10:37 am
May 25, 2018 at 11:07 pm
or Geri Allen (R.I.P.) and Marilyn Crispell!
Robert G Guyer
August 13, 2018 at 11:10 pm
The great Jessica Williams. Haven’t heard her? Check out her rendition of Nice Work If You Can Get It, on youtube
November 10, 2017 at 12:58 am
Agree..many left off.Marian especially.A d what a out Joanne Brackeen?Phenomenal.
September 29, 2015 at 7:43 pm
I would have included Gene Harris.
September 7, 2017 at 5:07 pm
Auf jeden Fall , ich auch..
November 8, 2017 at 3:02 pm
September 29, 2015 at 7:46 pm
Andrew Hill at 36 – ridiculous!
October 25, 2015 at 3:26 am
Exactly my reaction too.
June 29, 2016 at 9:06 pm
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.
September 15, 2019 at 2:59 pm
Lennie Tristano is $50.
Is there any chance that DAVE BURRELL is related to the jazz guitarist KENNY BURRELL?
September 18, 2019 at 1:05 pm
Sorry Folks. I meant Lennie Tristano is #50.
September 29, 2015 at 8:00 pm
No Eddie Higgins? No Eliane Elias? Where’s Marian McPartland, Bill Charlap, Joe Augustine?
March 14, 2019 at 6:56 pm
I have listened to most on the list and they are all good….however Joe Augustine belongs in the top 5…his chord structures, nuances and inventiveness are unparalleled!
September 29, 2015 at 8:05 pm
In that case, why not make a list of the top 88 greatest jazz pianists ?
September 29, 2015 at 9:58 pm
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.
June 30, 2016 at 10:24 am
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?
September 29, 2015 at 9:59 pm
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.
October 1, 2015 at 7:37 pm
Nat King Cole was one of Ahmad Jamal’s favorites. Ahmad told me this personally many times.
November 8, 2017 at 8:57 pm
Yes, if you listen to the superb 1946 Sinatra recording of “Sweet Lorraine” with the Metronome All-Stars, Cole’s piano is wonderful.
October 26, 2015 at 11:23 pm
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.
February 24, 2018 at 11:25 pm
To put Erroll Garner at 17 is ludicrous-if you listen extensively he is really unparallelled musically-also had a great technique and he was certainly the greatest composer among all the jazz giants.I happened to meet Erroll on tour in 1972 and he was the most self effacing lovely man you could meet.Junior Mance told me in 2015 that everyone was blown away by Erroll in the early days in NY and they all wanted to play like him,
Erroll is justifiably living a second life on the net and part of the problem for fans now is that Erroll died long ago and may have got overlooked somewhat.I understand that Art Tatum was very taken with him (”one day he will become something”)and I think Erroll drove him around a bit and even went up against Art in a piano duel(s). So he has to be right up there and is my favourite primarily because of his unique musicianship and his unmatched intros-beat that! He influenced a generation;one notable was Dudley Moore who could imitate Erroll’s playing very well esp the left hand-but nobody has ever quite sounded the same though Errolls brother said there was a Tommy—? in US(Cincinatti??) who he couldnt tell the difference -Linton his brother said he couldnt play one bar like Erroll -strangely, but he was a fine player himself and played trumpet in Dukes band;what a family!
And note Erroll looked and sounded like he was having the time of his life-tragically died too young from lung cacer at 55yrs.
Erroll said ”playing is like life -either you feel it or you dont” -so true.
September 29, 2015 at 10:07 pm
George Cables, Stan Tracy, Carla Bley, Monty Alexander, Pete Johnson, – I vote for 88 otherwise there isn’t enough room on the piano stool.
September 18, 2019 at 2:18 pm
I think that an even 100 would be even better.
September 29, 2015 at 10:08 pm
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
September 29, 2015 at 11:53 pm
I would move Ahmad Jamal higher on the list and include the great be-bop pianist Al Haig.
October 26, 2015 at 11:25 pm
Include Junior Mance too.
September 29, 2015 at 10:09 pm
31) Pettuciani => Petrucciani
September 29, 2015 at 10:27 pm
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.
September 29, 2015 at 11:31 pm
No Lennie Tristano??
September 29, 2015 at 11:42 pm
I noticed that too!
September 18, 2019 at 1:01 pm
ARE YOU GUYS BLIND!! As I said before, LENNIE TRISTANO IS #50!!
BUD: I thought that for sure you would pick up on this since you and Lennie have the same LAST NAME!
October 4, 2015 at 2:52 am
a list of 36 jazz pianists with no Tristano, Billy Taylor of Timmons is completely stupid.
September 18, 2019 at 1:12 pm
I assume you mean the TOP 36? That is a strange number?
I shall say it again Tristano is #50!!
September 29, 2015 at 11:41 pm
What about Paul Bley? He should at least be in the top-10.
September 29, 2015 at 11:44 pm
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….
September 29, 2015 at 11:49 pm
You can’t have a list like this and leave off Al Haig!!!!
November 8, 2015 at 6:05 am
And Michael Legrand!
September 30, 2015 at 12:04 am
hard to imagine a list like that without brad mehldau
October 24, 2016 at 2:39 pm
YOU ARE RIGHT.And HAMPTON HAWES, TEDDY WILSON- DUKE ELLINGTON- BJORN SVENSSON- WINTON KELLY -HORACE SILVER-MAL WALDRON-CEDAR WALTON ETC
September 18, 2019 at 1:20 pm
Duke Ellington was known more as a composer.
As good as Duke was at composing, I believe that most people have not noted that he wrote the simplest tune (melody) in the history of music.
Yes. Even simpler than MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB:
C JAM BLUES!
December 15, 2019 at 12:29 pm
MEHLDAU IS #35!!
September 30, 2015 at 12:18 am
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.)
September 30, 2015 at 12:20 am
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.
September 30, 2015 at 12:49 am
Where is Joe Sample, brad mehldau, and Carlos ruvacabla?
September 30, 2015 at 10:32 am
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 !
September 30, 2015 at 11:49 am
You should be familiar with the Spanish language: It is Gonzalo Rubalcaba from Cuba
December 15, 2019 at 12:26 pm
MEHLDAU IS #35!!
September 30, 2015 at 1:03 am
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.
October 28, 2015 at 7:48 am
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.
January 6, 2020 at 5:21 pm
Jarrett doesn’t come near to monk
December 15, 2019 at 12:32 pm
MEHLDAU IS #35!!!
September 30, 2015 at 1:52 am
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…
June 29, 2016 at 5:05 pm
Thanks for that piece of useful knowledge, I’m off exploring this mister Al haig’s world!
June 30, 2016 at 8:46 pm
I wonder if people know just how good Al Haig was
September 30, 2015 at 2:44 am
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.
September 30, 2015 at 3:00 am
Not one great jazz piano played by a woman????
November 9, 2017 at 2:00 am
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.
Percy W walters
September 30, 2015 at 3:20 am
No Dave Brubeck, what’s wrong with you people
September 28, 2019 at 2:47 pm
Dave Brubeck is #16!
September 30, 2015 at 4:16 am
Gene Harris? Fred Hersch? Brad Mehldau? Shelly Berg?
October 24, 2016 at 3:50 am
Yes. Where is Gene Harris?
September 30, 2015 at 4:27 am
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.
June 29, 2016 at 10:10 pm
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.
September 30, 2015 at 4:34 am
Joanne Brackeen should definitely be in the list.
September 30, 2015 at 4:51 am
September 30, 2015 at 5:00 am
Dr Billy Taylor, Geri Allen, Johnny Costa, Marian & Mary Lou, Claude Bolling
September 30, 2015 at 6:02 am
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.
August 21, 2018 at 3:56 am
Yes! Jan Johansson should be on this list. Steve Dobrogosz! (Fairytales)
September 30, 2015 at 6:17 am
Gonzalo Rubalcaba should be on list.
September 30, 2015 at 6:18 am
Gonzalo Rubalcaba should be on list.
September 30, 2015 at 6:36 am
Willie “The Lion” Smith is certainly a great oversight. His Commodore recordings are one of the great pinnacles of jazz.
October 1, 2019 at 3:41 am
Willie (The Lion) Smith is #26!
September 30, 2015 at 6:56 am
Great list but where’s Sun Ra?
September 30, 2015 at 7:01 am
September 30, 2015 at 7:31 am
I’m astonished, that nobody referred Hampton Hawes.
September 30, 2015 at 7:33 am
bitte angebote in deutscher Sprache
September 30, 2015 at 7:39 am
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.
September 7, 2017 at 10:15 am
September 30, 2015 at 7:47 am
And what about, f.e. Tete Montuliu?
June 29, 2016 at 11:44 pm
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”.
September 30, 2015 at 9:31 am
Eddie Palmieri, Chucho Valdez should be on the list
November 8, 2017 at 4:10 pm
I think Eddie’s brother, Charlie, would be an even better choice!
September 30, 2015 at 9:56 am
September 30, 2015 at 11:09 am
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.
September 30, 2015 at 11:34 am
Nat Cole, Lenny Tristano?
September 18, 2019 at 1:27 pm
I GIVE UP!!!
Tristano is #50!!!
September 30, 2015 at 4:53 pm
No women! WTF. No Mary Lou Williams?
September 30, 2015 at 6:35 pm
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…
October 24, 2016 at 3:31 pm
Money jungle with minus and roach
September 30, 2015 at 8:05 pm
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.
September 30, 2015 at 10:54 pm
No Harry Conick Jr.?
September 30, 2015 at 10:59 pm
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!!!
September 30, 2015 at 11:36 pm
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.
October 3, 2015 at 8:14 pm
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.
October 3, 2015 at 9:28 pm
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.
October 3, 2015 at 10:42 pm
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.
October 4, 2015 at 1:18 am
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…
October 4, 2015 at 3:05 am
Scott Joplin is on this list. Hmmm, has anyone ever actually heard Scott Joplin play?? No, is the answer. How laughable is this list.
November 9, 2017 at 2:02 am
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.
October 4, 2015 at 7:05 am
Lamont Jhonson,Rubalcaba,Phineas Newborn Jr.,
October 4, 2015 at 10:51 am
Great artists- but I miss Erroll Garner !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
October 4, 2015 at 5:44 pm
A great list, but as many people already said, loads of pretty good pianists are missing! Gil Evans?
October 4, 2015 at 7:08 pm
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!!
October 4, 2015 at 9:47 pm
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 !
October 5, 2015 at 2:20 pm
Jessica Williams. Who? ‘The best unknown jazz piano player’
October 7, 2015 at 12:28 am
For me there is Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson and then everybody else.
October 23, 2015 at 8:33 pm
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 ……….
October 24, 2015 at 2:55 pm
October 26, 2015 at 1:59 am
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.
October 26, 2015 at 5:12 am
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!
October 26, 2015 at 3:55 pm
December 15, 2019 at 12:36 pm
Mehldau is #35!!
October 26, 2015 at 4:00 pm
October 26, 2015 at 5:24 pm
Danny Zeitlin? Clare Fischer? Marian McPartland? Sir Roland Hanna?
October 26, 2015 at 9:27 pm
What about Gonzalo Rubalcaba?
October 26, 2015 at 11:33 pm
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.
October 27, 2015 at 7:26 am
At least Art is no1, but Oscar, Bud and Bill should be 2,3,4…
October 27, 2015 at 11:16 am
1. Bill Evans
October 27, 2015 at 3:47 pm
Ein persönlicher Favorit von mir ist Alan Broadbent!
October 27, 2015 at 8:43 pm
oscar peterson ?????
October 31, 2015 at 9:21 pm
January 15, 2016 at 12:17 pm
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!?
January 15, 2016 at 6:26 pm
Michel Camillo. Had people cheering and crying at the 2003 Monterey Jazz Festival.
January 15, 2016 at 6:42 pm
where is Alan Broadbent, Milgrew Miller, Brad Mehldau?
January 15, 2016 at 8:13 pm
Mary Lou Williams didn’t make the cut? Really? Eldar Djangirov?
January 15, 2016 at 10:05 pm
Oscar Peterson? Há outros e bem melhores!!!
January 16, 2016 at 3:03 am
What about Brad Mehldau or Vijay Iyer?
H Daniel Mujahid
January 16, 2016 at 5:36 am
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.
H Daniel Mujahid
January 16, 2016 at 5:38 am
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.
January 16, 2016 at 4:03 pm
No list is complete without Vince Guaraldi, Monty Alexander, John Beasley and Nat King Cole
April 25, 2016 at 2:17 am
Why 36 men?
September 18, 2019 at 2:27 pm
Maybe the original list was only 36 men.
I guess that is why everyone is wondering why LENNIE TRISTANO was left out.
May 5, 2016 at 8:53 am
The best of all Jazz Pianist ist Keith Jarrett!
In the combination of musical technique und being a great composer.
May 13, 2016 at 12:49 am
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.
June 2, 2016 at 3:00 am
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.
June 29, 2016 at 11:06 am
1. Keith Jarrett & Chick Corea
2. Ketil Bjornstadt
3. Ahmad Jamal
4. Joe Zawinul
5. Herbie Hancock
6. Claude Bolling
7. Mc Coy Tyner
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 )
Samuel L. Chell
January 10, 2020 at 7:47 pm
No list of seminal, great pianists can be taken seriously if it omits the artist who, more than anyone else, shared and lived the aesthetic of the Romantic poet John Keats (from “Ode on a Grecian Urn”–Beauty is Truth; Truth Is Beauty–the counsel Bill issued to Tony Bennett in 1978). After leaving Miles Davis in ’58, Miles called him back for a truly innovative recording: the result was “Kind of Blue,” the most successful jazz album of all time (artistically and commercially–still among the top sellers in jazz). And it introduced modes and greater freedom to jazz.
Next Bill would form a jazz trio that revolutionized the piano trio by making each instrumentalist, not merely supportive of the pianist, but a contributor of equal importance. Moreover, Bill kept the flame going, traveling round the world, too busy to go into a recording studio. Thankfully, his last trio with Marc Johnson and Joe LaBarbera has been well documented. Everyone obsesses on his ’61 Vanguard recording, but his valedictory was jazz’ equivalent of Mozart’s or Verdi’s Requiem–an 8-night stand in San Francisco, ending a week before his death in NYC. It’s music that cements Bill Evans’ place as one of the 2 most important musicians in the 2nd half of jazz history. Coltrane has always been the first–though after Elvin and McCoy left him, the music of his last year was chaotic, obvious, cacophonous–leading to mass exits. Trane’s Romanticism was heaven-bent and spiritual in contrast. Bill, on the other hand, completed his archetypal journey be going full circle. He started out as jazz’ foremost “impressionist” (cf. Debussy, Ravel); he ended as a full-blown “expressionist” (think Moussoursky, Rachmaninoff)–two opposite sides of the same coin of “Romantic art.” Bill had the biggest, heaviest hands of any pianist–his touch, always “deep in the keys,” could coax from the most stubborn piano the fullest ppp and fff in closely-voiced harmonies or the most evenly-played rapid runs thanks to minimal body movement and heavy, dead accurate fingers. Never forcing a things while maintaining the same body and hand position during loud or soft passages (Keith simply lacked this physical advantage, making things worse when he stood up while playing). People ignore this last period by Bill, whose drug addiction was due not only to the horrible tragedies in his life but to his determination not to betray either his art or the two young musicians who, for the first time, constituted “his” trio, expressing his vision and aesthetic. He was one of the few remaining, one of the last, groups in jazz that continued to carry the flame. Whereas Keith selected his “spots’ on the basis of crowd size, money, etc., Bill remained an active soldier, about to go on another world tour when his body betrayed him. (The lives of other Romantic composers–Schubert, Schumann, etc.–are equally dark.). But the sublime beauty and powerful emotion (often thunderous in his last period, 1978 to Sept. 15, 1980) was proportionate to his suffering.
November 11, 2020 at 3:17 am
Bill Evans is #3 on the list, you clod!
It is very disrespectful of other readers to write without paying attention.
June 29, 2016 at 1:24 pm
You forgot Kenny Drew and Cecil Tayler should have had a higher range. And Scott Joplin on the list? Lists are silly.
June 29, 2016 at 3:35 pm
Gene Harris should be among the best 10!!!
June 29, 2016 at 8:44 pm
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..
November 11, 2020 at 3:23 am
I love Joshua Rifkin’s _performances_ of Scott Joplin, but they don’t make him a jazz pianist. He’s a classical performer, conductor, and musicologist whose immaculate performances gave Joplin’s ragtime compositions the respect they deserved.
June 29, 2016 at 8:48 pm
Jessica Williams is not well known by most jazz lovers (though she has released dozens of excellent CDs: http://www.jessicawilliams.com/). 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.
June 29, 2016 at 9:10 pm
Thelonius Monk?? What? Not one of the 36 Best?
November 11, 2020 at 3:30 am
Thelonius Monk is #2!!
Are people not paying attention, or is this list changing?
June 29, 2016 at 11:46 pm
Tete Montoliu belongs very high on the list.
June 29, 2016 at 11:48 pm
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.
June 29, 2016 at 11:49 pm
Gone but not forgotten is Nat ” king ” Cole, accomplished jazz pianist before his voice overcame the ” 88 .”
June 30, 2016 at 12:28 am
Kenny Barron and Cedar Walton!!!!!!!!!!
June 30, 2016 at 1:18 am
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
June 30, 2016 at 1:37 am
June 30, 2016 at 3:58 am
Bill Evans is my number 1. And Shirley Horn should be on the list.
June 30, 2016 at 4:00 am
Brad Mehldau is wonderful also.
John T. Wilkinson
June 30, 2016 at 7:19 am
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.
June 30, 2016 at 8:05 am
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.
June 30, 2016 at 9:51 am
1.- Bill Evans
2.- Keith Jarrett
3.- Oscar Peterson
June 30, 2016 at 10:36 am
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.
June 30, 2016 at 10:42 am
Ok, I take it back. Two other people mentioned Clare Fischer. My faith is restored! 🙂
June 30, 2016 at 10:37 am
And the list has 36 pianists because there are 36 black keys on the piano? Oh good lord… 🙂
June 30, 2016 at 2:32 pm
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.
June 30, 2016 at 2:35 pm
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.)
June 30, 2016 at 4:57 pm
My top ten list would definitely include Kenny Barron. And Bill Charlap, in the top 36.
July 1, 2016 at 5:42 pm
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.
August 1, 2016 at 6:08 pm
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
January 6, 2020 at 5:33 pm
Bill is overrated. Herbie ranks higher as a complete pianist. And there is no way he should be higher up the list than Bud Powell. There’s a good case that Bill is a Top 10 pianist, but that’s when the lauding should end.
July 11, 2016 at 3:21 pm
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.
August 21, 2016 at 1:08 pm
The top 10 is MINT……….JIMMY SMITH is a HUGE oversight, though. “The Sermon”was a game changer.
September 9, 2016 at 11:04 am
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.
October 16, 2016 at 4:28 am
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!
October 23, 2016 at 4:44 pm
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?
October 23, 2016 at 7:23 pm
Can’t believe no one is mentioning Kenny Barron.
October 24, 2016 at 12:34 am
I can”t believe no one mentioned PHINEAS NEWBORN JR.!
October 24, 2016 at 3:47 am
YOU MUST be CRAZY!!!!
NO CHUCHO VALDES!!!!!!!!!!!!
Between Chucho and Art Tatum a toss up as #1..2-3 Oscar
October 24, 2016 at 9:40 am
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.
January 5, 2017 at 11:57 pm
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.
March 30, 2018 at 5:46 pm
A staple on Mr. Rogers neighborhood
February 11, 2017 at 6:27 pm
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
9. Hazel Scott
10. Art Hodes
February 11, 2017 at 7:36 pm
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 ?????
February 11, 2017 at 7:58 pm
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.
February 11, 2017 at 8:28 pm
Ahmad Jamal’s The Awakening solidifies his spot as one of the best pianists of all time, if not the greatest.
February 11, 2017 at 9:06 pm
No Kenny Barron but you have that crackpot Keith Jarrett on this list?…… Please……
February 12, 2017 at 12:30 am
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
February 12, 2017 at 12:41 am
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.
February 12, 2017 at 12:42 am
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.
February 12, 2017 at 12:43 am
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
February 12, 2017 at 1:02 am
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!).
February 12, 2017 at 1:24 am
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.
February 12, 2017 at 1:24 am
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.
February 12, 2017 at 2:13 am
Aceptó la lista de los 36 mejores pianistas pero el más grande y mi ídolo favorito es OSCAR PETERSON
February 12, 2017 at 3:34 am
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!
February 13, 2017 at 2:58 pm
And what about Hadda Brooks?
February 15, 2017 at 7:09 am
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.
Edward L Glassner
February 15, 2017 at 7:21 pm
All men? No Mary Lou Williams, Geri Allen, Renee Rosnos, Marian McPartland …
March 30, 2018 at 5:42 pm
Also Jessica Williams and Alice Coltrane
February 17, 2017 at 6:39 pm
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
February 17, 2017 at 6:47 pm
@anyone that hasn’t heard Mal Waldron – First Encounter yet, I’d love to hear your thoughts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgckQmjUtcU
February 23, 2017 at 5:00 pm
C’mon people – waht about Barry Harris?
March 6, 2017 at 11:22 am
What about Herbie Nichols and Kenny Drew, both of them brilliant pianists.
April 13, 2017 at 3:20 pm
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.
April 22, 2017 at 6:35 pm
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.
April 23, 2017 at 4:47 pm
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???
April 23, 2017 at 5:29 pm
Another vote for Al Haig.
Al Haig was Bud Powell’s favorite pianist. “He’s my idea of a perfect pianist.”
April 23, 2017 at 5:51 pm
My top 14 jazz pianists in alphabetical order, based on 60 years of listening:
Hasaan Ibn Ali
James P Johnson
Jelly Roll Morton
April 23, 2017 at 6:15 pm
How about the five best who are not on the list:
April 23, 2017 at 7:50 pm
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.
Michael von Winterfeldt
April 23, 2017 at 9:36 pm
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!
April 23, 2017 at 10:05 pm
Don Shirley And the great Marian!
April 24, 2017 at 12:58 am
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!!!!!
April 24, 2017 at 2:03 am
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.
April 24, 2017 at 7:54 am
It is wonderful that so many fans discuss the pianist-list – JAZZ IS ALIVE!!!!!
April 24, 2017 at 11:56 am
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.
April 25, 2017 at 3:54 am
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!!!
Dr Paul Winson
April 26, 2017 at 5:34 pm
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
September 8, 2017 at 7:48 pm
Stan Getz didn’t play the piano, did he?
April 27, 2017 at 4:09 am
Disappointing to see that no one has mentioned Satoko Fujii so far. Extraordinarily versatile, and a composer/arranger as well as a piano player.
April 29, 2017 at 8:26 pm
Jaki Byard is a most obvious ommission.
May 18, 2017 at 11:54 pm
Agree with most of the picks, but Gene Harris and Beegie Adair should have been included.
June 20, 2017 at 10:30 pm
so cheesy to make a list, moreso when it has to nod to the commercial stars of the recent era. sad!
June 22, 2017 at 12:31 am
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.
November 10, 2020 at 8:15 pm
July 7, 2017 at 2:57 am
Uh…Lennie Tristano….where is he?
October 18, 2019 at 2:55 pm
July 8, 2017 at 11:14 am
“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?!
July 14, 2017 at 11:19 am
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.
July 14, 2017 at 12:30 pm
Throughout my musical career my favourite pianists were Wynton Kelley Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans
July 14, 2017 at 1:59 pm
There is an alternative top 100 list over at Ranker.com. I think it was please some of you (and it includes 3 females in the top 36.) That list is voted on by average joes and jills. http://www.ranker.com/list/greatest-jazz-pianists-of-all-time/ranker-music Be careful with actually trying to join Ranker, though. Two of their “log in” sites told me the site was not secure.
July 14, 2017 at 2:47 pm
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.
July 14, 2017 at 3:31 pm
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.
July 14, 2017 at 3:39 pm
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.
July 14, 2017 at 5:54 pm
so you include Duke Ellington and keep out BILLY STRAYHORN an RED GARLAND??? agree bout the first ten
July 14, 2017 at 6:17 pm
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).
July 14, 2017 at 6:26 pm
Can agree with the top three but not with Herbie Hancock being better than Keith Jarrett.
July 14, 2017 at 6:29 pm
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.
July 14, 2017 at 7:00 pm
You have Bob James and Cecil Taylor on this list, but you do not have Elmo Hope? You should be ashamed!
July 15, 2017 at 2:50 am
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!
July 15, 2017 at 3:16 am
Missing: Ellis Marsalis, Bill Charlap, Fred Hersch , Diana Krall, Barry Harris
September 8, 2017 at 7:46 pm
Ellis Marsalis is a trumpet man, I believe. Maybe he also plays piano?
July 15, 2017 at 6:46 am
I’m astonished that no one has mentioned Don Friedman.
July 15, 2017 at 11:38 am
Missing Dollar Brand / Abdullah Ibrahim
July 15, 2017 at 4:43 pm
It would not matter who is on the list. Someone will always come along and refute it.
July 17, 2017 at 8:07 pm
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 !?
July 23, 2017 at 9:32 pm
You missed Dave Zoller. One of the true greats. Finishing work on a Theloneous Monk anniversary album. He is amazing!
September 6, 2017 at 6:40 pm
1. Bill Evans
September 6, 2017 at 6:43 pm
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.
September 6, 2017 at 6:43 pm
…and Nat King Cole ?
September 6, 2017 at 6:49 pm
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)!
September 6, 2017 at 6:51 pm
September 6, 2017 at 8:34 pm
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.
September 6, 2017 at 8:57 pm
If in all this beautiful list there was no place for lennie tristano who wrote this list should do some homework.
September 6, 2017 at 9:02 pm
Um jaki byard?
September 6, 2017 at 9:07 pm
mal waldron ? I do not know who wrote this list and where he will take the information but a bit disappointing …
September 6, 2017 at 9:35 pm
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.
September 6, 2017 at 10:36 pm
No Paul Bley??? Unacceptable. No Fred Hersch? Unacceptable. No Jason Moran? Oh, come on!
September 6, 2017 at 11:24 pm
September 7, 2017 at 2:39 am
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?
September 7, 2017 at 4:43 am
Monk is my favorite
September 7, 2017 at 12:36 pm
Rick Wake man? ?
September 7, 2017 at 9:50 pm
NOT A BAD LIST BUT YOU LEFT A LOT OF SOME OF THE BESTPLAYERS OUT.
September 8, 2017 at 12:20 pm
Allen Toussaint (Bright Mississippi)
September 8, 2017 at 2:47 pm
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.
September 8, 2017 at 7:42 pm
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
September 8, 2017 at 9:14 pm
How about Martial Solal?Do they all have tu\o be American?
September 9, 2017 at 2:18 am
Bill Evans should be #1. And where the hell is Brad Meldau?
November 7, 2017 at 11:04 pm
Elmo Hope. Cedar Walton. Stanley Cowell.
November 8, 2017 at 4:08 am
November 8, 2017 at 12:22 pm
Aw, man. Have you got no heart? No Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson? Magicians of the boogie woogie. Bringers of joy.
Marc De Mey
November 8, 2017 at 12:26 pm
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.
November 8, 2017 at 1:16 pm
It’s hard to take seriously a top 36 jazz pianists list that doesn’t include Mary Lou Williams….
November 8, 2017 at 1:41 pm
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
November 8, 2017 at 4:56 pm
No one encompasses Herbie Hancock.
November 8, 2017 at 6:16 pm
Underrated: Wynton Kelly and Red Garland…and where is Cedar Walton?
Way overrated: Chick Corea, Dave Brubeck, Ramsey Lewis
November 9, 2017 at 7:46 am
Absolutely agree with you assessment – and Gene Harris deserve a spot
November 9, 2017 at 3:27 am
An exercise in futility.
November 9, 2017 at 4:18 am
Dan Tubbs, Jr.
November 9, 2017 at 4:54 am
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.
March 30, 2019 at 6:06 pm
I 100% agree
November 9, 2017 at 4:57 am
Cedar Walton and Mulgrew Miller should be at the top but are missing???
November 9, 2017 at 7:44 am
whoever compiled this list has clearly never hear Gene Harris play
November 9, 2017 at 8:06 am
Eldar Djangirov , Mike Garson ?
November 9, 2017 at 7:07 pm
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.
November 13, 2017 at 6:13 am
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!
November 16, 2017 at 3:11 am
No Brad Mehldau ? Unbelievable!
December 15, 2019 at 12:38 pm
Mehldau is #35!!
November 19, 2017 at 6:41 am
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.
March 30, 2018 at 5:39 pm
John Hicks was a monster on the piano
December 2, 2017 at 4:18 am
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.
March 12, 2018 at 4:57 am
Jazz Pianists? Have you ever heard “Mack the knife” by Nina Riche?
March 30, 2019 at 9:17 pm
Thanks to you, Talking Stein, I went there ….. and No Thank You!
October 1, 2019 at 3:51 am
Anyone who can make “Mack The Knife” sound interesting must be good!!
March 26, 2018 at 9:59 am
In preparation for this year’s Piano Day (29 March), we’ve expanded and revamped this list, and added some of your suggestions. Take another look and let us know what you think!
March 29, 2018 at 2:11 pm
No armenian piano player either. Tigran Hamasyan is by far one of the best piano players in the world.
March 30, 2018 at 7:20 am
This is a good summary of jazz pianists. But ranking them is ridiculous. They all have their own style. If you are ranking, what are your criteria? If you have no criteria, what is the point.
March 30, 2018 at 5:51 pm
March 30, 2018 at 5:58 pm
June 29, 2018 at 10:17 pm
It’s a list, limited to 50 (up from 36, which is an improvement), and it’s not intended as a scientific ranking. It’s their list, and if it were larger it might have included some that were omitted . .but it’s only as large as it is. I might come up with a different list. So would you. I think the list captured most of the major players, missed a few that I would have included — McPartland and Newborn to name a couple — and some of the rankings are idiosyncratic. . .but hey, it’s generated some thought and some memories and inspired some listening (at least on my part) and some discussion, all of which, I figure, is the point. So, withal my disagreements, cool list.
July 22, 2018 at 10:56 am
The omission of Marian McPartland is criminal. Also, Phineas Newborn, Joe Sample, and Kenny Werner should have been included.
I do like your top 4 and was pleasantly surprised by it.
September 27, 2018 at 7:21 pm
How do you leave Joe Sample off this list ???/
October 17, 2018 at 11:44 pm
I am not sure any of you know much about Jazz if you haven’t included my father Johnny Guarnieri. He was Fats Waller’s protege and played with all of the Jazz Greats. He played with many of the jazz bands in the 30s and 40s Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey to name a few, and he had his own radio show. Here is just a sampling of his work and there is much more on youtube.
Let me know what you think once you have listened and then tell me he shouldn’t be in this list, close to the top!
November 5, 2018 at 3:51 pm
November 18, 2018 at 6:09 pm
There’s a japanese pianist probably nobody knows, but i believe he should be on this list, not for any revolutionary turn he gave to jazz piano playing, which i don’t think he did, but just for the sheer beaulty of his music. His name is Ryo Fukui
November 18, 2018 at 6:15 pm
Damn it! Now that i think of it, there’s another japanese piano player, but you just have to HAVE her on this list! Hiromi Uehara! If you don’t know her, get out there, drop whatever you’re doing and listen to her, and redo this list! She’s a freakin’ genius! Ammmmmazing technique, overflowing with energy and creativity, she’s written beautiful songs and rearrangements. A must!
January 5, 2019 at 7:57 pm
Hiromi Uehara! easily qualifies for the top 10!
November 26, 2019 at 10:40 pm
One more vote for Hiromi Uehara! Top 5!
March 3, 2019 at 5:36 am
DUKE JORDAN, AL HAIG, SIR WALTER BISHOP, RED GARLAND, JUST TO NAME A FEW MISSING ARTISTS.
March 29, 2019 at 4:58 pm
March 30, 2019 at 6:15 pm
Count Basie said Earl Hines was, ” ..the greatest piano-player int the world”. And i happen to agree.
March 31, 2019 at 8:33 am
Me too. If you need confirmation of this, go see the wonderful 1 hr docu on Hines @ https://vimeo.com/58414566
June 2, 2019 at 4:40 pm
one which is missing but stand out as performer as well as educator is dick hyman.
the knowledge and know how are stretched throughout the entire history of jazz piano.
a must in the list.
July 24, 2019 at 5:44 am
Where is Joe Sample? He definitely should be included among the greats!
September 15, 2019 at 3:00 pm
Lennie Tristano is $50.
Is there any chance that DAVE BURRELL is related to the jazz guitarist KENNY BURRELL?
September 15, 2019 at 3:04 pm
This is a reply to a to someone above who stated that Lennie Tristano was not on the list and mentioned the name Dave Burrell.
September 18, 2019 at 2:30 pm
Sorry Folks. Again, Tristano is #50.
October 1, 2019 at 3:46 am
SORRY. Lennie Tristano is #50.
September 15, 2019 at 3:07 pm
Yes. Tommy Flanagan was good but not good enough to keep up with John Coltrane on GIANT STEPS.
September 17, 2019 at 1:24 pm
The late PAT LUDWIG from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.
He was a friend of OSCAR PETERSON but had lines that related more towards TEDDY WILSON.
September 18, 2019 at 2:33 pm
Calm down now.
I am surprised that your comment was shown.
September 18, 2019 at 2:44 pm
I cannot believe that everyone is forgetting about one pianist that a lot of people think is just a notch lower than Oscar Peterson:
OLIVER JONES!!! (Fulford Street Romp and Tippin Home From Sunday School).
Does anyone else agree??
September 28, 2019 at 2:51 pm
The late RANDY WESTON?!
He was one of the oldest but also one of the best!
September 28, 2019 at 2:54 pm
I am glad that you did NOT include Ramsey Lewis.
He would be more appropriate as a person in the TOP 50 for BLUES pianists.
October 1, 2019 at 3:43 am
SORRY. RAMSEY LEWIS ON THE LIST BUT SHOULD NOT BE!
October 17, 2019 at 1:33 pm
BRAD MOGGACH from Ontario, Canada?
You can check out his piano work on Youtube (THE CHRIS NOWAK PROJECT Volumes 1 and 2).
AUTUMN IN MUSKOKA (Vol.1) is very good.
Christopher Nowak BFA MLIS
October 20, 2020 at 2:14 pm
Here is Brad playing in a duo with TIM MOHER.
My AUTUMN IN MUSKOKA should really be called AUTUMN IN HEAVEN!!
Christopher Nowak BFA MLIS
October 20, 2020 at 2:25 pm
Sorry. You left off the link.
Here it is.
Christopher Nowak BFA MLIS
October 24, 2020 at 1:57 pm
Check out Brad’s second half solo in UNION DUES BLUES.
His block chords would make Dave Brubeck proud!!
November 6, 2019 at 1:24 pm
November 7, 2019 at 11:34 pm
Gene Dinovi and Tom Szczesniak?!!
December 1, 2019 at 2:44 pm
He played with many greats including ART FARMER.
He is also a graduate of the same program that I graduated from (YORK UNIVERSITY, BACHELOR OF FINE ARTS-MUSIC MAJOR).
December 13, 2019 at 1:25 pm
How could you possibly leave out HIROMI UEHARA!!!!!
December 15, 2019 at 12:56 pm
DEFINITELY THE BEST PIANIST IN THE WORLD WHO WAS BORN IN THE 21st CENTURY: JOEY ALEXANDER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4V_uaxBVOw
December 30, 2019 at 11:36 pm
TV fans are probably aware of the TV series HOUSE.
HOUSE is played by the great actor and multi-instrumentalist HUGH LAURIE.
Aside from guitar, vocals, saxophone and harmonica, he plays a mean jazz piano!
On one episode, he plays a nice version of GEORGIA and on another plays a more classical oriented piece.
However, on another episode he played a weak rock guitar solo. I shall assume that he did not intentionally want to show off like he did with the piano.
January 6, 2020 at 5:45 pm
Bill Evans too high. Herbie and Bud too low. Kenny Barron has to be included in the convo.
Christopher Nowak BFA MLIS
January 6, 2020 at 6:17 pm
Here is a sample of the boogie woogie specialist:
January 7, 2020 at 9:16 am
6: Errol Garner
5: Count Basie
4: Fats Waller
3: Nat King Cole
2: Teddy Wilson
1: Earl Hines
November 16, 2020 at 9:52 pm
I agree – especially Hines at no. 1. Basie also said that Hines was, “The greatest piano player in the world”. Go see Hines @ https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=earl+hines+documentary – just utterly, utterly WONDERFUL.
November 16, 2020 at 9:57 pm
Especially Earl Hines at no.1
Christopher Nowak BFA MLIS
January 29, 2020 at 1:26 pm
Look out Bill Evans!!:
Christopher Nowak BFA MLIS
February 4, 2020 at 12:36 pm
VINCE HURLEY from THE JIVE ACES!?
February 25, 2020 at 6:16 pm
you forgot Wray Downes
Christopher Nowak BFA MLIS
April 11, 2020 at 11:40 am
Here he is with MICHAEL BRECKER.
Christopher Nowak BFA MLIS
April 11, 2020 at 11:44 am
Sorry folks. It is actually:
May 20, 2020 at 4:45 am
July 2, 2020 at 8:54 am
I’ll say I enjoyed this list overall. It had many of my favorites. I don’t warm to Art Tatum though–mostly flash more than substance and pretty much feel that way about Oscar Peterson too.
I miss Victor Feldman most–I understand that maybe he did not have the career he might have, mostly staying in the studios. But you could hear how great he was on the records he is on. On the other hand, it was good to see Sonny Clark do well. He’s been my big discovery in recent years with “Leapin’ and Lopin'” and “Cool Struttin'” especially.
I feel John Lewis is most underrated here. A glowingly beautiful player–most of these players can’t touch the beauty of his ideas and the flow they get when he is at his best.
The three best in order:
(read some of the comments that perpetuate the old “he can’t play that well” myth that Leonard Feather perpetuated–actually I don’t believe any of the others could play as he does nor should they try).
but 4) Duke Ellington, who played the most beautiful jazz piano solo I know, just half a chorus on “In a Sentimental Mood” with Coltrane, and sets up a glorious close by Trane. Duke is like Monk, inimitable–and of course, that partly comes from being a great composer first of all.
Christopher Nowak BFA MLIS
October 16, 2020 at 3:09 am
November 10, 2020 at 8:11 pm
How is it possible to have this large a list without either Chucho Valdes or Bobby Enriquez? Both could be top 10, certainly top 25.
Christopher Nowak BFA MLIS
January 12, 2021 at 7:18 pm
BOB JAMES and JUSTIN-LEE SCHULTZ
January 30, 2021 at 2:57 am
Maybe others should be on the list, and maybe the order should be rearranged, but one thing you got for sure … Art Tatum absolute #1!
February 12, 2021 at 4:39 am
Good list, but please get Bob James the hell off of it and put a great pianist on it. The top 50 is way too top for Mr. James.
February 19, 2021 at 9:17 pm
Thanks for publishing this. Certainly thought-provoking and will never satisfy everyone. I’m puzzled by James P Johnson at only 25th on the list. The King of Harlem Stride pianists should be in the Top 10. Also, where is Mal Waldron? I don’t understand Herbie Hancock at #4–ahead of Oscar Peterson, Fats Waller–you’re kidding me! And John Lewis in the ’40’s, he deserves much more respect than that. Finally, while I absolutely love Monk, I can’t see him at #2. Maybe for composing, but not his playing.
August 16, 2021 at 12:37 am
No Gene Harris! Unbelievable!!!! 🙁 This is definitely skewed. Gene Harris should be in the top 3 easily!
August 26, 2021 at 1:27 am
Well, you got Art Tatum right. That’s about it. They’re all truly great,just in the wrong order. You should listen to some Ronnie Ball. People don’t know him and he deserves being heard. Recommend Lee Konitz live at Storyville for some prime Ronnie!
January 1, 2022 at 8:16 am
At some point, you are going to have to find a place in the top 10 for Emmet Cohen. The impact he has had in the past year and a half makes is unheard of in jazz, which is greatness in itself.
As far as ability goes, most of the names on this list are unable to match his. He is right up there with Oscar and Art.
Also, Harold Mabern at 43 is pretty steep. Show the man some love please.
January 31, 2022 at 11:32 pm
We are comparing piano players,musicians and arrangers. The piano is by far the most complex instrument.Harmony rhytm and melody .
We are comparing inventors,innovators or persons who copied or refined a style .We are comparing blues stride boogie ballads funky salsa musicians And at the end of the day your taste decide.
I have been transcribing and analysing piano music for a lifetime,as a professional player.Compliment for the list is really reasonable .It s impossible to agree on names.Any musician does certain slyles or particulars better.Harmonisations,complex funky grooves, stride pop jazz ballads ,new ideas,tango jazz, gospel rock and so on.
But ,generally speaking,when you trancribe and compare you understand a lot.For instance the quality of Bill Evans texture and harmony is very sophisticated and complex .Art tatum does in a minute more modulations and notes than Mozart in 20 minutes.Jarret can improvise with an astounding freedom.Piano Music is an handmade product .You can copy or to invent a own convincing style like a painter an actor a sculptor.
But somebody stands out for superior quality .
Talking with great pianists we mostly agree that Tatum was simply unbeliaveble technically but musically too ,,he did too many notes but he could play with great feeling and romance.I agree with the number one. As an arranger for romantic ballads i see Evans as the very romantic tasty arranger who never become too cerebral.Hancock a pioneer in funky modern piano ,Corea agreat innovator ,fantastic musician sometimes a bit cold and complicated.Peterson the king of bluesy swing piano ,one of the few who could make a show with the piano.
I could add hundred of very good pianists but i think that the top 5 is rather well defined.Astonishing musicians who reinvented the piano and had theyr own convincing style.To Arrange for piano is a very complicated and extremely interesting art .
February 3, 2022 at 9:12 pm
Any top 50 list will be flawed, but BY FAR the greatest oversight was to not include Hampton Hawes! If you don’t believe me, just listen to All Night Session. He was possibly the greatest of all the Bop pianists. I would even put him ahead of Bud Powell.
February 20, 2022 at 10:53 am
Only one woman? Come the frig ON! Eliane Elias, Marian McPartland, Joanne Brackeen, Hiromi etc. etc. get with the bloody programme.
July 9, 2022 at 4:18 pm
Thank you for putting Barry Harris on the list. Playing and teaching pretty much to the end, he died in December 2021.
September 24, 2022 at 3:46 pm
How about Blossom Dearie? Miles Davis said she was “the only white woman with soul.” Her piano playing also influenced Bill Evans’ use of fourths in chord voicings and he also named her as one of his models of piano playing.
Doug Gortner, Party Pianist
November 14, 2022 at 4:02 pm
These rankings are absurd. No need to cite examples. However…
I didn’t even see Gene Harris on this list. He didn’t travel extensively, but he was good enough to replace Oscar in Ray Brown’s band. His final recording “Gene Harris Live at Otter Creek” is his best album. The single most exciting jazz recording EVER is Gene Harris with Roger Kelleway. check it out on YT.
November 18, 2022 at 3:52 pm
Erroll Garner on 17th??? Really?????? He’s Mozart of Jazz Piano! Where is Mulgrew Miller – fantastic jazz pianist with fantastic taste, powerful tecnique, harmonic sense???? James Williams – fantastic jazz pianist, Mulgrew’s big friend, and mentor….? Tommy Flanagan on 17th?????? But Hank Jones on 30th? Are you crazy? Keith Jarrett is fantastic pianist, but Chick Corea is most powerfull composer, phenomenal jazz pianist and equal with Herbie Hancock! And a lot of mistakes…….Brad Mehldau…..hah….. For me NUMBER 1 is ERROLL GARNER, only NUMBER 2 ART TATUM, THELONIOUS MONK…BUD POWELL, MCCOY TUNER………HERBIE HANCOCK, CHICK COREA etc….
At last MUSIC IS KIND OF ART, NOT SPORT!
January 12, 2023 at 8:50 pm
Not having Oscar Peterson #2 makes the whole list suspect.
February 11, 2023 at 6:56 pm
This list was clearly made up of people far from jazz. Where is the eminent outstanding master of jazz Cedar Walton? Where is the absolutely fantastic master Mulgrew Miller? Where is Horace Parlan? Where is John Hicks? Where is James Williams? Where is Albert Daly? Where is Joe Bonner? Where is Mickey Tucker? In general, you understand jazz in the same way as a pig in oranges. What???? Erroll Garner is 17th?????? He is a genius and should be the first among the greatest.
March 30, 2023 at 7:04 pm
Yeah, we can all agree to disagree, and everyone’s list will be different. Mine would surely have included Joanne Brackeen, whose astounding ‘Breath of Brazil’ album — unfortunately somewhat out of print and only fleetingly available on YouTube — has been on my car’s CD player for the last two years, played hundreds of times without growing stale. To get some idea of her amazing range, check out her monster chops in the album she did with Toots.
The other omission, arguably even more glaring and one for which there is persuasive evidence on YouTube that he belongs not just on the list, but near the top, is Chucho Valdes. Chick Corea rightly is on the list, but listen to the evening of duets they did together on YouTube and you cannot but conclude that if Chick is on the list, than Chucho without argument should be on it too
April 25, 2023 at 2:50 am
There is little in life that is as complex as musical appreciation.
Having seen many of those listed above I would only suggest the addition of two of the most important (possibly not most talented) jazz pianists of my lifetime (knocking on 80s door and attendee of the Monterey Jazz Festival since 1962)
Dave Brubeck for his revolutionary time signatures and popular acceptance.
Vince Guaraldi for his his talent as an artist as well as a composer, and the simple fact that he has undoubtedly brought more attention to jazz through his Charley Brown recordings than any one performer before or after.