Louiz Banks’ Top Ten Jazz Pianists

Oscar Peterson (credit: Wikimedia commons)

While the following 10 are in my all time hall of fame, there are other piano players from all over the world, relatively unknown, who have blown my mind.

Oscar Peterson: He was the greatest and the swingiest jazz piano player, with an astounding and unmatched piano technique and command (of course after Art Tatum) and a beautiful harmonic sense for lyricism and an incredible and thundering left hand. He was my first inspiration to take up jazz piano, so I love the guy.

Art Tatum: He was a piano genius and the greatest of them all, barring none. Piano players dreaded to play after him in a jam session. He was a solid two-handed player with incredible technical prowess and ingenuity. I still get totally blown when I put on his cd. The great classical virtuoso pianist Horowitz used to go and listen to him play. Art Tatum has inspired every jazz pianist.

Errol Garner: The sultan of swing and one of the most original jazz stylist of the piano with a distinctive voice, he was a one-man band. His solo lines, bass lines and a thumping left hand drove and swung every jazz standard that he played. He had a great sense of humour and was a great entertainer. He did not know how to read music notation and did not need to. He was truly gifted and played beautiful swing piano.

Herbie Hancock: My all time favourite, my piano playing and thinking comes from Herbie. He has a great harmonic sense and his interpretations of jazz standards are a work of art. I think a whole new school of piano players emerged following Herbie’s approach to jazz harmony. He is a complete pianist in terms of lyricism, technique, inventiveness and modernity.

Chick Corea: A pianist for all seasons who can play anything and make it his own, Corea is a master composer with a prodigious output. He has great technique and imagination. He is also one of my influences and I am a huge fan of anything that he plays, composes and produces. His musical output and variance is staggering. The man is unstoppable and is at the top of his game.

Keith Jarrett: A great interpreter of jazz standards, he has a unique voice with a distinctive style and his live performances are endearing and captivating. He has the requisites of a great piano player in terms of technique, chops and imagination. But the most remarkable thing about his is that, as an interpreter he respects the composer and always stays faithful to the melodic aspect of the composition and does amazing things with the piece in terms of bringing out the essence and beauty of the melody. Jarrett has one the longest running jazz trios in the world with Jack Dejohnette on drums and Gary Peacock on bass. His solo and trio performances are always a sell out.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: A truly astounding piano player. A Cuban by descent, he has an affinity for Cuban montunos, ostinatos and cross rhythmic pyrotechnique in his jazz interpretations. Gonzalo has taken the jazz world by storm and one should hear him play Coltrane’s Giant Steps and Parker’s Moose The Mooch. I love his piano interpretations. His fiery and precise technique, beautiful lyricism and amazing rhythmic dexterity is nothing short of mind blowing.

Brad Mehldau: He is among the best in the new crop of great piano interpreters. A great stylist and with a two-handed technique and a effervescent right hand that creates new lines endlessly. He is definitely my favourite among the emerging giants of the piano.

Michel Petrucciani: He is a true phenomenon of the piano despite his handicaps. A great interpreter of jazz standards, he had an amazing all round two-handed technique. The music that he created will forever live with jazz aficionados.

Hiromi: She is an amazing piano player with a style that is unique. She has a great sense of humour and is very innovative with her technique. Her solo piano renditions of the standard I Got Rhythm is worth a mention. Art Tatum would have smiled if he had heard the rendition. Hiromi is unique, with a voice that will carry her far into the future.

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

scroll to top