Solo Jazz Piano a Diversion?

In this months edition of ” The Absolute Sound” (February 2011-issue 210, pages 120-121) there is an article called “New Jazz on Ten Fingers” by Jeff Wilson.  Being a pianist myself, I was very interested in reading this article.  First Jeff gets high marks for a very interesting and deep subject.  Second, he gets high marks for introducing new solo jazz piano discs.  I don’t want to nit pick his article, but I do want to add to this discussion. 

Jeff makes the point that it seems that most jazz pianists only do solo recordings as a diversion. He also states that there are many jazz pianists that have never recorded a solo album.  I could be wrong but it seemed to me there was an implication that maybe some of these pianists were reluctant to play solo while others excelled at it.  What I  believe is that many of them would have recorded solo works but record labels are concerned with how marketable solo piano is.  Jeff’s reference to Keith Jarrett and the legendary LP “The Koln Concert” is great.  Here is living proof that solo piano music has a market.  Everybody went out and bought that record.  It was hip.  It was cool.






I ‘d really like to hear Lenny Tristano’s “The New Tristano” (1962 LP) and I will go on the hunt for it on vinyl. Also, McCoy Tyner’s “Solo”.    Here are a couple of samples of the other discs Jeff discussed.  First “Fred Hersch plays Jobim”


01. Por Toda Minha Vida 








Next Vijay Iyer Solo:









 The Piano is the ultimate instrument.  It is really the only insturment that does not require any other accompanyment.  In some ways it is kind of strange to discuss the uniqueness of solo piano performances.  Beethoven would find it hilarious.  Solo piano was the norm not the exception thoughout music history.  To me there is nothing quite like seeing solo piano performances live.  It is the acid test, the ultimate.  I bet even the jazz pianist that never recorded solo work would have loved to release solo performances, but couldn’t get past the A&R man at record company.    So here are a few nuggets from the past that did not get mentioned in Mr. Wilson’s article:

Bill Evans “Alone”.

No discussion of Jazz on Ten Fingers could be complete without the mention of the great Bill Evans.  Here is the play list from this great LP:

1.  Here’s That Rainy Day

2.  A Time For Love

3.  Midnight Mood

4.  On A Clear Day4 On A Clear Day

5.  Never Let Me Go

I wish I had room to upload “Never Let Me Go”.  This is 14 minutes of magic.  It rivals John Coltraine’s “My Favorite Things.”  This is a must have Bill Evans Recording. Thank you to Jimmy Joe for my copy of this amazing LP!

Next:  Teddy Wilson -Solo:

Solo Piano: Keystone Transcriptions 1939-1940

Teddy Wilson – 01 – Get out of town

2.  Just One Of Those Things

3.  I Get A Kick Out Of You

4.  I Love You

5.  It’s All Right With Me

6.  Love For Sale

7.  Too Darn Blue

8.  Blue Turning Grey Over You

9.  Aint’ Cha’ Glad?

10.  I’ve Got A Feeling I’m Falling

11.  Zomky

12.  Black And Black

13.  Ain’t Misbehavin’

14.  Honeysuckle Rose

Last, check out Ellis Marsalis. (The Father of Winton Marsalis)  He has some great Jazz solo piano discs.  I really love the one he did of Duke Ellington songs. (Duke In Blue)  This is a must have!

Duke in Blue

This only scratches the surface of solo jazz piano performances.  What do you think?  Any comments?

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4 Responses to Solo Jazz Piano a Diversion?

  1. Joe Norman says:

    I agree with you that most if not all jazz pianists would have loved to record solo albums if given the opportunity. It’s sad to me that the people who decide such things don’t realize there is a large market for solo jazz piano albums. In the classical music world solo albums are a must and the norm as you said it has been that way since the piano was introduced.

    I do think there are other instruments which don’t necessarily need any accompaniment but nothing really rivals the piano. Although the piano is a percussion instrument it has more ability to express emotion than any other percussion instrument and more than most instruments period. I have always been fascinated by the piano.

    The songs I was able to listen to blew me away. I would love to have these albums and listen to them in their entirety. It is impressive to me that you always seem to share some very unique and interesting insights to the artists, recordings, and other aspects of the topic you choose. I believe this blog site will only get better as you learn all you are able to do with it. Excellent job so far.

  2. John Norman says:

    Great comments Joe. Can you imagine what Horowitz or Rubenstein would think about an article stating how unusual solo jazz piano performances are? As you said the instrument is designed to be a solo instrument.

  3. Tom Barton says:

    Hello, John. What a great blog. I am thinking of Nina Simone who was a classically trained pianist and, I believe, did solo jazz piano until she died in 2003.

    • John says:

      Nice comment Tom. You’re right about Nina Simone. One of the interesting things about the Jobim recording is that Nina performed many of those same Jobim songsl.

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