The piano is the most versatile of musical instruments. It enables a player to combine notes and create complex chords. For the ‘Great’ Jazz Pianists, greatness is no easy matter to define, and arguments will continue to rage over the merits of each of these soloists when compared to one another. The evidence is here and all you have to do is listen!
“This is amazing music to read the Great Gatsby to.” Joel
“Full marks to Past Perfect for the accurate discographcal data, with studio matrix numbers, dates and identities of vocalists” J Wright
The piano is the most versatile of musical instruments. It enables a player to combine notes and create complex chords, and in the right hands, offers exceptional potential for dynamic variety. Unlike its predecessor, the harpsichord, the piano is essentially a percussion instrument. The notes are activated by felt hammers striking strings and each pianist brings differences of touch and emphasis to this process, helping to define the piano as the ideal vehicle for a creative art-form like jazz.
A late seventeenth-century innovation, the piano was perfected by one Bartolomeo Cristofori, then the Keeper of Instruments at the Medici Court in Florence. Originally the piano e forte (literally ‘soft and loud’), it embraces the staple elements of rhythm, melody and harmony.
Little wonder then that the piano became the instrument of choice for so many families throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries or that great numbers of aspiring musicians were encouraged to tackle its complexities. Black families in America were no different to their white counterparts in this. They too, wished their offspring to acquire the preferred social graces of the day, among them, of course, sufficient mastery of the piano to provide the accompaniment for turn-of-the-century parlour socials, family festivities and neighbourhood recitals. Unsurprisingly, the piano also became a common feature of church and school life, and the perfect support for many kinds of public entertainment, much of it innocent; the rest, from all reports, sometimes verging on the downright disreputable.