Jazz Piano masters - Fats Waller

Unknown Greats

Thanks to the wonders of youtube many undiscovered greats are getting an airing - check out this video of Dave McKenna. What an amazing pianist! In this medley he plays a version of My Funny Valentine, Blue Moon, The Lady is a Tramp, some of the best versions I've ever heard, especially in a solo context. Dave died a few years ago, and there is a good biography at wikipedia. He was known to listen to the Boston Redsox games on a transistor radio while performing!

As with most jazz performances, this one will really grow on you with repeated listening, and you begin to notice little things, like the shifts in tempo and the driving left hand bass lines that make such a complete sound. Also, the piano itself has a wonderful tone.

You can find many of his albums on amazon, and i-tunes also has a selection, good for getting a preview of tunes you might like.

Dave McKenna

Art Tatum

One of the most revered piano players in history, Art Tatum is well represented on youtube too. Other greats include Bill Evans, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, McCoy Tyner. The difficulty of mastering this genre of solo jazz piano cannot be underestimated, as it involves arranging, improvising and great skills of coordination.

There is a clip of Art Tatum below, a sequel to the Fats Waller film.

Fats Waller Misbehavin'

Playing Jazz Piano

There are many good books on jazz piano these days, often with a CD for audio examples. If you are starting out in this style, try using ii V I chord sequences, such as Dm G7 C.

  • Replace the Dm with a Dm7 or Dm9
  • Put in some altered tones on the G7, such as G13, G7 sharp or flat 5, G7 sharp or flat 9.
  • Replace the C with Cmaj7 or C maj9.
  • Most jazz tunes use this chord progression, often a series of them in different keys.

Useful book and CD - Improvising Blues Piano

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Comments 7 comments

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Thanks for this interesting Hub, Jon. Love jazz piano and this McKenna guy is good! Thanks for the intro.

Love and peace,

Tony


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks

Jon Green, great hub! Thanks for introducing me to this musician I had not heard of before. "He was known to listen to the Boston Redsox games on a transistor radio while performing!" That's some multitasking ability!


keira7 profile image

keira7 6 years ago

I am so happy also to discover this great artist. Thanks my friend. I wish you a Very Happy New year 2010 to you and your family. Bless you.:)


Jon Green profile image

Jon Green 6 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK Author

Thanks Tony, Aya and Keira - happy new year to you all. I've just finished a NYE gig in Somerset - we all sang Auld Lang Syne and it's very cold and frosty here. Cheers, Jon


AEvans profile image

AEvans 6 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

McKenna is fantastic! I love playing Jazz Piano my dream as a litte girl was to be a famous pianist, **sigh** but I still love to write and I am following that dream, thank you for another great hub.:)


BennyTheWriter profile image

BennyTheWriter 6 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

Beautiful music, awesome hub. I love jazz piano, being a (still learning, still aspiring) jazz pianist. I don't know of any other instrument within any other genre that lends itself to the same charisma and expressive potential.


Jon Green profile image

Jon Green 6 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK Author

Hi Benny - I've been working on jazz piano for 20 years and I'm still pretty indifferent at it. When you see it played well it's very impressive.

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