Jazz Piano masters - Fats Waller
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.
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.