Jazz

The ten best jazz pianists of all time

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6. McCoy Tyner A major force in John Coltrane's classic quartet from 1960-65, 74-year-old McCoy Tyner is known for a heavy-handed approach to the piano, which was fueled by his powerful left-handed block chords. While deft playing can be heard on some of Coltrane's greatest Impulse! albums, like Crescent and A Love Supreme, some of Tyner's late-'60s, post-Coltrane, Blue Note material, especially The Real McCoy, showcases his intuitive playing. Some of his more recent material over the last decade, including 2008's Guitars and 2009's Solo: Live From San Francisco are fine efforts as well.

5. Bill Evans When Bill Evans teamed up with drummer Paul Motian and bassist Scott LaFaro, they formed one of the finest trios in the history of jazz, and their synergistic chemistry is documented on their 1961 Village Vanguard sessions. Influenced by Impressionist composers like Debussy and Ravel, Evans was lilting and lyrical at times in his approach to piano, especially on cuts like "Blue in Green" and "Flamenco Sketches" from Miles Davis's watershed album Kind of Blue. Evans's Portrait in Jazz, Waltz for Debby and his 1975 duet album with Tony Bennett are other standout recordings.

4. Herbie Hancock It was evident from Herbie Hancock's 1962 debut Blue Note album, Takin' Off, recorded when he was 22, that the pianist was not only a gifted musician, but a gifted composer, as well, as evidenced on "Watermelon Man," one of his most famous cuts, and "Driftin'." While his early and mid '60s Blue Note material was thoroughly impressive, especially Maiden Voyage, his playing seemed to develop considerably during his five years with what was dubbed Miles Davis's Second Great Quintet. Throughout the '70s, Hancock experimented in jazz funk, and in 1973, he released the iconic Head Hunters, a landmark album in jazz-fusion. In 1983, his song "Rockit" was one of the first popular singles to feature turntable scratching. Over the last decade, the 73-year-old Hancock some interesting crossover discs like 2005's Possibilities and 2010's The Imagine Project.

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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon