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History of Jazz Piano #223581
01/08/02 07:03 PM
01/08/02 07:03 PM
Joined: Jan 2002
Posts: 2
Gainesville, Florida
P
Pat Mackin Offline OP
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Pat Mackin  Offline OP
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Joined: Jan 2002
Posts: 2
Gainesville, Florida
I need assistance in compiling a brief history of the piano in the development of Jazz as a musical genre. I have divided my history into three sections:
1. The history of jazz
2. Great Jazz pianists/composers
3. Outstanding Jazz composition.
Here is what I have compiled to date:
Although there are those who would list Louis Armstrong and the trumpet as the major force in the development of Jazz as a musical style, it is the piano at the hands of a number of great artists and composers who brought Jazz to the forefront in American music and has kept it there through generations.

The standard legend about jazz is that it was conceived in New Orleans and moved up the Mississippi River to Memphis, St. Louis and finally Chicago. Of course that seems to be the history of what we now refer to as jazz, however, the influences of what led to those early New Orleans sounds goes back to tribal African drum beats and European musical structures.

As popular music Jazz likely began with the onset of piano ragtime when it began to be published in the late 1890s. It was immediately successful and subjected to various kinds of popularization, almost all of which have continued. It was (and is) sometimes played fast and shallow, with deliberately still rhythms, on a jangling prepared piano -- so much so that it is difficult to convince some listeners that the early ragtime composers were highly gifted melodists and serious craftsmen who produced an admirable body of musical art.
Ragtime was basically a piano keyboard music where somewhere in the background of the music is the Sousa style march, thus the first great ragtime composition, Maple Leaf Rag, by the first great ragtime composer, Scott Joplin, was built on four melodies, or themes. If we assign a letter to each theme, the structure of Maple Leaf Rag comes out to ABACD. In ragtime, these themes were sixteen measures like their European counterparts.
Dixieland is an umbrella to indicate musical styles of the earliest New Orleans and Chicago jazz musicians, recorded from 1917 to 1923, as well as its developments and revivals, beginning during the late 1930s. It refers to collectively improvised small band music. Its materials are rags, blues, one-steps, two-steps, marches, and pop tunes. Jelly Roll Morton was the leading pianist of the early Dixieland music.
"Tin Pan Alley was a real alley on East Fourteenth Street near Third (in New York). But it was never just a place, Tin Pan Alley has come to be known for an era of songwritting when many musical ideas mixed together to form American Popular Music. Tin Pan Alley brought together many styles one of which was jazz along with its foremost composer George Gershwin and his Rhapsody in Blue
Boogie-woogie is a jazz style that seems quite accessible to the listener. It is a piano style that was occasionally orchestrated successfully. This full-sounding style came into existence when it became necessary to hire a piano player to substitute for an orchestra. The resulting "barrel-house" piano which could be found in rural southern juke joints tried to imitate the sound of three guitars: one playing the chords, one melody, and one bass.

During the 1930s, the strict blues form was being used more in jazz recordings as the tempos were speeding up. In the years just before 1940, the primitive blues form of boogie woogie became a popular fad. Music historians have credited Meade Lux Lewis for the boogie woogie craze. All during the 40s boogie influenced a number of arrangements within the big bands. The swing bands found great success when they added the element of boogie, such as the case of Will Bradleys "Beat Me Daddy, Eight To The Bar," and Tommy Dorseys "Boogie Woogie."
Of the boogie woogie players who came to promeinence during the boogie fad; seven stand out as the major contributors and influences: Pine Top Smith, Albert Ammons, Jimmy Yancey, Joe Sullivan, Clarence Lofton, Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis. In later years Freddie Slack, Cleo Brown and Bob Zurke came to promidence as the younger generation of boogie woogie players.
Swing is the jazz style that emerged during the early 1930s and emphasized big bands. It spilled into the late 1940s and then remained popular in recordings, film, and television music long after its main proponents had disbanded. Musicians strove for large, rich tone qualities on their instruments. Solo improvisers did not seek intricacy in their lines so much as lyricism and a hot, confident feeling that was rhythmically compelling. For these reasons, the musical period of the 1930s and 1940s has been called the swing era and big-band era. Not all dance music played by big bands of the 1930s and 1940s was jazz. A large segment of the public, however considered almost any lively, syncopated popular music to be jazz. There were a number of outstanding Jazz pianists during the Swing period. Among these were Teddy Wilson,

Jazz Periods of Development

Pre-Jazz
Ragtime
Dixeland
Tin Pan Alley
Boogie Woogie
Swing

Jazz Pianists/composers

Clarence Williams
Jelly Roll Morton
Scott Joplin
Meade Lux Lewis
Albert Ammons
Pete Johnson
Earl Hines
Zez Confrey
Teddy Wilson
Art Tatum
George Gershwin

Notable Jazz Piano Compositions

Maple Leaf Rag
Rhapsody In Blue

All comments, criticisms, additions, deletions are welcome.

confused

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Re: History of Jazz Piano #223582
01/08/02 08:06 PM
01/08/02 08:06 PM
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 341
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T2 Offline
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T2  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 341
Quote
Originally posted by Pat Mackin:
I need assistance in compiling a brief history of the piano in the development of Jazz as a musical genre. <snip>


I would like encourage your interest in the subject, but as it is your paper would not earn a passing grade from me. I would make sure that you expand your research to include several things:

1. "Jazz Piano: A Jazz History" by Billy Taylor. This is a good source to look at how musicians influenced other musicians. I take that back. It is an excellent source.

2. Ken Burns' PBS special on jazz. I'm not sure of the title, but reprints are available at www.npr.org. Burns does a good job of covering the social milieu in which jazz developed, including the racism.

3. "Jazz Piano", by Chick Corea, VHS-Video Tape. Offers very good insights into the early history of jazz as well as contemporary directions. Beautifully played with Chick sitting at the piano I might add. I would look especially into the origins of jazz piano because (how do I say this delicately?) your essay is not well researched in this regard.

4. "The Universal Mind of Bill Evans" VHS-Tape available on Amazon. Your essay should consider the contribution of this man. He is the most influential pianist to emerge from the 1950s. Similar comments with respect to McCoy Tyner and Chick Corea in the 1960s.

5. In terms of compositions, I would include the 1928 song "Peg of My Heart" because that song marked the shift in rhythmic structure from the 2-to-1 ragtime to 3-to-1 swing feel in American popular music. The 3-to-1 feel ran throughout the swing era and all the way out into freeform jazz. Meanwhile, another shift occured in the 1950s back to a 2-to-1 or 4-to-1 rhythm with rock and roll. It would make for an interesting tangent to note how many people learned to listen to music with only one groove and got left behind when the paradigms shifted.

6. Your inclusion of boogie-woogie as a prominent central theme within the history of jazz piano is dubious. Especially without mentioning its rival style, Harlem stride piano. Your discussion of Harlem stride piano needs work. Be sure to include Willie "The Lion" Smith, Fats Waller and their mentor, James P. Johnson. Personally, I would treat boogie-woogie not as a jazz development but as another section dealing with the interaction between jazz and blues, including boogie-woogie. Alternatively, this can be treated in a section on the rivalries between the styles associated with various cities, e.g., Chicago, Kansas City, New Orleans, New York and later West Coast.

7. Your inclusion of George Gershwin as one of the fathers of modern jazz piano is quite insightful. But don't ruin a beautiful insight by making the basic mistake of categorizing "Rhapsody in Blue" as a jazz composition. It ain't. Unless you're talking about the improvised versions Gershwin himself played when recoding for piano roles. Gershwin's influence has not yet been adequately appreciated by jazz historians. For example, it is clear to me that McCoy Tyner looked carefully at the first page of the score to "Porgy and Bess" when he was formulated his modal conception at the piano, which features rapid, percussive pentatonic scales in the right hand supported by powerful, driving quartal voicings in the left hand. Just like the marimbas and horns in "Porgy and Bess". (I could give you 100 more examples, but I dont' have the time. But look into this.)

8. Obviously your research needs to progress past 1935.

Re: History of Jazz Piano #223583
01/08/02 08:22 PM
01/08/02 08:22 PM
Joined: Nov 2001
Posts: 1,820
NJ
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SteveY Offline
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SteveY  Offline
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Joined: Nov 2001
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NJ
Did I misread the previous posts? Where's Duke? Or Basie? Also, why does your history end with swing? What about Bop? or Cool? Also missing are Miles, Bird, Coltrane, Monk, Gillespie, etc. . .

The Ken Burns series is wonderful!!!!


PianoWorld disclaimer: musician, producer, arranger, author, clinician, consultant, PS2 aficionado, secret agent...
Re: History of Jazz Piano #223584
01/08/02 08:23 PM
01/08/02 08:23 PM
Joined: Nov 2001
Posts: 1,820
NJ
S
SteveY Offline
1000 Post Club Member
SteveY  Offline
1000 Post Club Member
S

Joined: Nov 2001
Posts: 1,820
NJ
Did I misread the previous posts? Where's Duke? Or Basie? Also, why does your history end with swing? What about Bop? or Cool? Also missing are Miles, Bird, Coltrane, Monk, Gillespie, etc. . .

The Ken Burns series is wonderful!!!!


PianoWorld disclaimer: musician, producer, arranger, author, clinician, consultant, PS2 aficionado, secret agent...
Re: History of Jazz Piano #223585
01/08/02 09:09 PM
01/08/02 09:09 PM
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 341
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T2 Offline
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T2  Offline
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Posts: 341
Your're right as usual, SteveY. Since you brought up Duke, I would also recommend a recent Biography of Billy Strayhorn called "Strayhorn". It does a great job of covering Ellington as well as explaining the huge role played by Strayhorn. This is important because Ellington was given composer credit for many of Strayhorns compositions during their lifetime. It's an interesting story. Turns out that nobody believed that society was ready to accept a gay black man as a prominent composer, so Strayhorn became Ellington's shadow and in return Ellington took care of Strayhorn's finances. It was a workable arrangement, but it also caused an anguished frustration that eventually lead Strayhorn to drink himself to death.

Re: History of Jazz Piano #223586
01/08/02 09:44 PM
01/08/02 09:44 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 597
Illinois
E
Eldon Offline
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Eldon  Offline
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Joined: May 2001
Posts: 597
Illinois
WELL DONE, T2... smile


Sincerely,
Eldon
Re: History of Jazz Piano #223587
01/09/02 01:26 AM
01/09/02 01:26 AM
Joined: Jan 2002
Posts: 183
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GJ Offline
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Posts: 183
A comprehensive look at jazz pianists and/or composers should include: Bill Evans, Bud Powell, Herbie Han****, McCoy Tyner, Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk, Jaki Byard, Chick Corea, Duke Ellington . . . I could keep going -- it's hard to make a list like this finite.

Re: History of Jazz Piano #223588
01/09/02 03:15 PM
01/09/02 03:15 PM
Joined: Jun 2001
Posts: 808
NL, Canada
Samejame Offline
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Samejame  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2001
Posts: 808
NL, Canada
Cool! A Jazz thread!

Man, I can't believe that the last part of Herbie's name was edited. Frank, is there some discretionary measure that can be used here?

With regard to Jimmy Yancy, I thought his historical significance was more in blues piano, not jazz.

Steve, I think Pat was concentrating on Jazz Piano, not just Jazz itself, which explains why such obvious names as Miles Davis, Coltrane et al were omitted.

Another Name to add - Eubie Blake.

Jamie

PS - Herbie Hanrooster, Herbie Hanvalve? wink

[ January 09, 2002: Message edited by: Samejame ]


"A cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing" Oscar Wilde.
Re: History of Jazz Piano #223589
01/09/02 03:35 PM
01/09/02 03:35 PM
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 341
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T2 Offline
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T2  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 341
You might also want to consider mentioning the internationalization of jazz piano. There are some great people that have come from other countries. Such a list would be long, but it would surely include Toshiko Akiyoshi, Marshal Solal, Christian Jacob and Makoto Ozone. Many of these people have had a big impact on jazz piano. Note, however, that current American jazz piano historiography [Taylor, et al] seems a bit provincial and has not yet fully given them credit where credit is due.

Another interesting trend: Since 1960 the U.S.A. has seen an exodus of top-ranked players to Europe and Japan. Players find that they're treated with more respect and appreciation there. Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim), Billie Holiday's longtime accompanist is in this category. An interesting additional source for information on the jazz American ex-patriots issue is the movie "Round Midnight". While not strictly factual--the plot was drawn from a collage of events drawn from the lives of both Lester Young (saxophone) and Bud Powell (piano)--this movie gets to the heart of the matter of what drives jazz musicians out of this country.

[ January 09, 2002: Message edited by: T2 ]


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