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Great jazz ballad players
#3039310 10/25/20 07:57 PM
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I am not in any sense a jazz pianist but for the last ten years I've played almost exclusively note for note transcriptions of jazz pianists that I've found on many different sites.

My favorite players of jazz ballads(in no special order) are Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, Fred Hersch, Dave Grusin, and George Shearing. I've played at least four ballads by each of those pianists.

I am curious to find out from those of you who know a lot more about jazz than me:
1. How would your list of the greatest players of jazz ballads compare to my list?
2. Can you describe in not too technical terms what you see as the similarities or differences between the playing of the pianists on my list? How would you describe their ballad playing?

Thanks!

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Re: Great jazz ballad players
pianoloverus #3039388 10/26/20 01:55 AM
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Yes, this is a great list of pianists that I join - except for Dave Grusin, who lost touch on acoustic piano in favor of electronic keyboards. Already listening to the GRP All-Star Big Band recordings, I noticed the terrible "glass" sound of the piano, with whom is impossible to play ballads.
Keith Jarrett was without a doubt the greatest balladist among pianists. He taught himself to vocalize the melodic line by imitating the phrasing of singers; which reminded the story of Anton Rubinstein, who imitated the great Adeline Patti bel canto on the piano.
However, the piano is not the leading instrument in the performance of ballads, but the wind instruments that are closer to the human voice: the saxophone and trumpet. Clifford Brown was the greater ballad trumpet player https://indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow/ballads-by-brownie.php , Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane among saxophonists .
The analysis of the ballad specifics of the performance will come later.

Last edited by Nahum; 10/26/20 01:57 AM.
Re: Great jazz ballad players
pianoloverus #3039392 10/26/20 03:22 AM
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Hi

Like Nahum I agree your list; these are the obvious choices, except Grusin, who I like, but have never heard play ballads.

I'd add Oscar Peterson. Not an obvious choice, given his reputation for virtuoso fireworks, but he was a great ballad player. You hear this best on some of his solo albums where his voicings and touch are wonderful.

Cheating, I'd add Nat King Cole from the After Midnight sessions, where he sang and played. It doesn't get much better than that.

As far as non Pianists go Ben Webster on Tenor Sax, would be my favourite.

Cheers


Simon

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Re: Great jazz ballad players
pianoloverus #3039409 10/26/20 05:28 AM
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One more I thought of that I like a lot for jazz ballads is Bill Charlap. Any opinions on his ballad playing?

For Dave Grusin, I have only heard his acoustic piano recordings. Here are three I like a lot and have played(Se Fue, Spartacus Love Theme, On Golden Pond):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K7kKJ7IIog
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqIVHM-nvPw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QF6zx09a3TU

For Fred Hersch, I've played his versions of I'll Be Seeing You, And So It Goes, The Nearness of You, No One Is Alone.

Can anyone try to describe the styles of these ballad players? I am very interested in how a knowledgeable jazz pianist would describe them.

Re: Great jazz ballad players
pianoloverus #3039442 10/26/20 07:42 AM
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Marian McPartland - Check out her radio show. She occasionally plays a solo ballad, like in this interview with Mulgrew Miller. "There will be other times" timestamp 24:42

Re: Great jazz ballad players
pianoloverus #3039446 10/26/20 08:11 AM
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I would describe Jarrett, Evans, Hersch and Charlap as lyrical players with great touch. I think they all have classical training. I would contrast that with Beboppers, like Bud Powell, or bluesy, hard swingers like Wynton Kelly, or percussive more rhythmically oriented players like Chick Corea.

Re: Great jazz ballad players
pianoloverus #3039496 10/26/20 11:28 AM
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Bill Harlap is a fine example of a well-balanced post-Evans jazz pianist (Bill Evans was the first in the dynasty), but his greatest strengths are sound and arrangement. However, he is neither an innovator nor a composer; how it differs from other pianists on the list.
The strong point of D. Grusin is his arrangement. Maybe tosomeone is enough.
Coltrane's priority as the most eminent jazz ballader is not the result of my own whim , but the spontaneous conclusion of a systematic comparison of 12 eminent saxophonists. It was only when I made a CD with a compilation of the performance of the ballads by Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Johnny Hodges, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Stanley Turrentine, Sonny Rollins and more, plus Coltrane, that he suddenly rises above everyone mentioned as a giant.

It all starts with sound; and the sound of Coltrane has a key that opens the souls of the listeners, in contrast to the sound of others directed to other parts of the personality ( and other body parts ). This quality puts Coltrane on a par with Yasha Heifetz, Vladimir Horowitz, James Galway or Hariprasad Chaurasia.
Compare two performances in the genre of " tragic ballads" : "I Remember Clifford" and "Alabama".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRA8EOR7Nm0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIZHCfAXOb0 -
Music imbued with spirituality and directed socially. Beyond any comparison with other artists in the history of jazz.
By the way, Jarrett's version of "I Remember Clifford" is fantastic, and proves the artist's sense of proportions, which forced him to exclude improvisation.

Last edited by Nahum; 10/26/20 11:32 AM.
Re: Great jazz ballad players
pianoloverus #3039508 10/26/20 12:07 PM
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Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter plays great ballads too.

Re: Great jazz ballad players
pianoloverus #3039558 10/26/20 02:02 PM
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Bill Evans, Bill Charlap, Ellis Marsalis

Re: Great jazz ballad players
pianoloverus #3039576 10/26/20 02:46 PM
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Pianoloverus
How would your list of the greatest players of jazz ballads compare to my list?

Here is my list in addition to the one already mention
Kenny Barron Saw Kenny play twice beautiful
John Lewis
Harold Mabern My mentor knew him and gave me some of his records
Cedar Walton Saw Cedar
Brad Mehldau
Andrew Hill Different but interesting
Michel Petrucciani Beautiful mastery of the piano
Bob James Saw Bob
Joe Zawinul Saw Joe with a thirteen piece band at the Catalina Jazz Club I also met at the same club Eldar Djangirov he was traveling with his dad because he was under age.
Hank Jones
Red Garland both Red and Hank could play ballads
Tommy Flanagan Tommy was one of the best
Erroll Garner
Earl Hines I saw and heard this guy in Phoenix in a hotel venue he had the longest fingers
Ahmad Jamal Saw Ahmad 4 times
MONK Ruby My Dear Round Midnight Monk's Mood

There are many others but this is a start

Re: Great jazz ballad players
dpvjazz #3039678 10/26/20 07:47 PM
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Originally Posted by dpvjazz
Pianoloverus How would your list of the greatest players of jazz ballads compare to my list?
I haven't heard or played much or even anything by most of the pianists on your list! I played classical piano most of my life and only "play jazz" fairly recently and with the help of note for note transcriptions. I don't have a broad experience with jazz pianists. I have played Petrucianni's Besame Mucho and Mehldau's Secret Love but know very little else from those two. Besides some of the ballad players I mentioned, I've mostly played transcriptions of early jazz pianists like Johnson, Waller, and Gershwin.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 10/26/20 07:51 PM.
Re: Great jazz ballad players
pianoloverus #3039716 10/26/20 10:38 PM
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We can't forget:

Monk
Herbie

Bill Evans is still my first choice - three of the zillion that come to mind.

Danny Boy - trio
Goodbye
What is there to say


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Re: Great jazz ballad players
pianoloverus #3039886 10/27/20 10:41 AM
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‘2. Can you describe in not too technical terms what you see as the similarities or differences between the playing of the pianists on my list? How would you describe their ballad playing?

Space and lots of it. I remember Sonny Stitt playing in Phoenix and I went and saw and met him. He asked me how many beats in a whole note. Right away I said depending on the time signature 2.3 or 4.
He said no it’s a circle with a lot of space. Well I didn’t understand at the time but that’s what separates Pros from amateurs.

This was my mentor Prince Shell https://www.allanchase.com/prince-shell-in-memoriam
He played ballads better than anyone else and I have heard and I met a lot of really good musicians.
He would come to my house and play ballads on my PETROF 7’9 grand. I would lay under the piano and be transported to another dimension.

Allen Chase When I listen to his playing and writing, I’m reminded how much his music is part of me and the way I play, write, listen, and think as a musician. There are probably hundreds of people who feel the same way
There are many people who knew Prince Shell longer and better than I did and I hope they will record their thoughts about him. Lewis Nash, Tom Goodwin, Mary (Bishop) Perret, Charles Lewis, David Valdivia, John Dixon, and the late Emerson “Sleepy” Carrethers, Helen “Lady J” Jones, John “School” Porter, and Dave Cook, and probably many people I am forgetting or didn’t know, were all friends, as were his DuSable classmates and Chicago, Tennessee State, Navy, Air Force, and other bandmates.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSFhONYqaJ9_YFHYuilXBCw/videos?view_as=subscriber

Last edited by dpvjazz; 10/27/20 10:42 AM.
Re: Great jazz ballad players
pianoloverus #3039918 10/27/20 12:00 PM
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No mention of this guy? https://youtu.be/KKVOytNRAx4

Or this young lady? https://youtu.be/FZbGnevBx8g

and the great: https://youtu.be/-aiwpxtszwk

All quite different but all great.

Last edited by ˆTomLCˆ; 10/27/20 12:08 PM.


Kawai NV10
Re: Great jazz ballad players
pianoloverus #3039961 10/27/20 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
2. Can you describe in not too technical terms what you see as the similarities or differences between the playing of the pianists on my list? How would you describe their ballad playing?

Thanks!

Not everyone who performs ballads is a great master of their performance; and it doesn't matter what his name is.
To understand the performance of ballads, one should dive deep into sound matter. In other words: listen, listen and listen; starting at the level of individual notes!

https://yadi.sk/d/dJS9uJlxE8VA9w

1. Keith Jarrett has the longest sustain among jazz pianists. His single sound is like a long sausage that he cuts into slices; and in each slice we feel the source of the long sausage. It is necessary to listen to its sound in its entire length: from attack to complete disappearance.

2. The next listening object is the connection of two sounds. This is the cardinal foundation of the melody vocalization technique on the piano.
When connecting two notes, one should pay attention to
the ratio of the dynamics of both attacks, as well as the ratio of the second attack and the corresponding point of decay of the first note's sustain.

3. Short motives of 3-6 notes. Notice how the touch changes on each of the 5 notes; how the dynamics are changing; how agogic is created - small changes in rhythmic tendencies and in the duration of adjacent notes. .

4. A phrase of 2 and a half bars. In addition to the above qualities, notice the melodic wave reaching its climax, and then powerlessly and sadly falls down.
For more clarity in the melody, everything is presented in slow motion as well.

Under this key, you can understand who is who, and why.

Re: Great jazz ballad players
pianoloverus #3039973 10/27/20 02:46 PM
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Beautiful post, thank you Nahum.

Re: Great jazz ballad players
Dfrankjazz #3040126 10/28/20 01:19 AM
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Thanks ,Dfrankjazz !

I forgot to mention a few things.

-Billy Strayhorn and young Herbie Hancock should be added to the pianists' list.
- To the mentioned qualities of sound production should be added the mastery of the timbre palette.

Re: Great jazz ballad players
Nahum #3040143 10/28/20 02:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Nahum
- To the mentioned qualities of sound production should be added the mastery of the timbre palette.

So true and necessary but for me just half the story!

If you describe the quality of voice and articulation i want to add the art of storytelling and building an enormous arc of suspense. There are many musicians (or actors) who can shape a line beautifully but lack the power and creativity for the long run.

In my opinion that really separates the masters.

-Rhodes74

Re: Great jazz ballad players
Rhodes74 #3040147 10/28/20 03:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Rhodes74
- There are many musicians (or actors) who can shape a line beautifully but lack the power and creativity for the long run.
Can you elaborate this in more detail? Especially in the light of the fact that K. Jarrett in this example only sets out a piece, does not improvise at all .

Re: Great jazz ballad players
Nahum #3040153 10/28/20 04:19 AM
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No contradiction!

I heard your montage and found it spot on. But quite certainly the magic does not stop here.

You showed the beauty of the voice, and i wanted to add the importance of soul and intellect(!) for a real great narrator. This is relatively rare and can be be really immersive for the listener.
Keith Jarrett is one of the best examples.

On the other hand i heard many musicians who are technically brilliant but kind of span their ideas over 4 bars.

(I won't give examples for that)


-Rhodes74

Last edited by Rhodes74; 10/28/20 04:23 AM.
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