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Rolling Stone India’s Jazz Playlist

The world of jazz piano (part one)

Sunil Sampat Jul 25, 2019

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The piano is a mighty instrument in jazz. With its 88 keys, the piano can be an orchestra. Naturally, it has been at the center of jazz composition and jazz performance. The piano in jazz has been versatile, from being a solo instrument to being the heart of a rhythm section in a band; it has been widely used as the core of a trio or duo too.

In this playlist, we have used different categories for the piano in jazz. Hopefully, we can surprise some of you with some unusual recordings.

Classic Trio and Small Combo Piano

Phineas Newborn Jr. – “Cheryl”

A relatively unknown jazz pianist, a jazz giant nonetheless. Enjoy his artistry in this bebop piece. Sadly, this fine pianist made just a handful of recordings, being plagued by ill health for most of his life.

Ahmad Jamal – “Poinciana”

An evergreen all-time favorite jazz recording. This is from 1958 but Ahmad Jamal still plays it at every live concert.

Oscar Peterson – “Bag’s Groove”

A beautiful blues tune composed by Milt Jackson (of The Modern Jazz Quartet fame). Peterson is accompanied by the great bassist Ray Brown and by Ed Thigpen on drums.

Herbie Hancock – “Cantaloupe Island”

Lively Latin rhythm composition by this wonderful pianist and composer. Hancock is accompanied by a stellar band with Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums.

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Thelonius Monk – “Hackensack”

A great jazz composer and pianist, Monk is accompanied here by saxophonist Sonny Rollins. The pianist is also the composer of the famous jazz standard “Round Midnight.”

Keith Jarrett – “Oleo”

One of the contemporary jazz piano greats is Keith Jarrett. He has recorded many solo albums, which are introspective; his piano trio recordings are delightful and seem to always swing. With Gary Peacock on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums, Jarrett has recorded several albums of standards. Here is “Oleo,” written by Sonny Rollins. The piano playing is so melodic in this bop number.

Red Garland Trio Plus Ray Barretto – “Manteca”

Red Garland was Miles Davis’ first regular pianist. Here Garland is playing a famous composition by Dizzy Gillespie. He has Paul Chambers on bass, Philly Joe Jones on drums and percussionist Ray Barretto on this lively tune influenced by Cuban rhythms.

Bill Evans – “Waltz For Debbie”

Another pianist from the Miles Davis stable, Bill Evans was featured on the jazz bestseller Kind of Blue. “Waltz For Debbie” was written by Evans for his daughter and is one of his most famous recordings. Here he has Scott LeFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums. Sadly, the very talented LeFaro died soon after this record was made in a car crash while in his twenties.

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Chick Corea – “Spain”

Destined to be a jazz evergreen, “Spain” was written by Corea. The introduction is taken from the “Concierto de Aranjuez” by Rodrigo and blended into the melody with great effect. Joe Farrell on flute is superb as are the other musicians.

Brad Mehldau – “And I Love Her”

One of the established contemporary jazz greats, Mehldau is reaching into the Beatles songbook and treating this classic composition with tenderness in this jazz rendition. You can almost hear the lyrics to the song in the sensitive approach by the trio.

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