Jazz piano has a long and colorful history. It has evolved over the years and has been influenced by a variety of different styles of music, as fans like Kavan Choksi Japan and others can attest. The following article chronicles the history of jazz piano from its origins to the modern-day.
The Early Years
To understand the history of jazz piano, it’s important to begin at the beginning. Jazz is a very distinctive style of music that was born in America. It came from a combination of African and European music. The foundations for jazz were laid down in New Orleans, a large city on the bank of the Mississippi River. In the early 1900s, a few musicians had started to make a name for themselves as entertainers in New Orleans. The most famous was Buddy Bolden. He is generally acknowledged as the first jazz musician because he played blues with a strong rhythm and improvised solos, which would become the most important aspect of jazz.
Unfortunately, Bolden didn’t live long enough to develop his talent. He suffered from schizophrenia and spent much of his adult life in mental institutions until he passed away in 1931. The other early pioneer was Bunk Johnson. His story is similar to that of Bolden’s. He was an excellent musician who began playing in brass bands as a teenager. He spent the early years working on steamboats that traveled up and down the Mississippi River. It’s thought that he got his nickname, Bunk because he often slept through work.
The Swing Era
The first jazz records were made in 1917 by the Original Dixieland Jass (ODJB). Their style of music would become known as Dixieland or New Orleans Jazz, but it didn’t catch on until many years later.
Over time, the city of New Orleans became known as ‘the birthplace of jazz.’ It was a melting pot of musical styles. African-American and Creole musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, and Lil Hardin would add their own individual sounds to the mix. They helped to create a new style of jazz known as Swing.
The Bebop Era
Benny Harris made the first bebop recording in 1944, but this jazz style didn’t become popular until the late 1940s. At that time, Louis Armstrong had taken up residence in New York City to play with Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra at the Roseland Ballroom. He also appeared on 52nd street at Minton’s Playhouse, where he would jam with other great musicians.
Miles Davis has often been credited as being one of the initiators of bebop. However, this is largely due to his association with Charlie Parker, known as ‘the father of bop.’ These two became friends when they played in Jay McShann’s band. Parker was known for his high level of musicianship, and he contributed greatly to Davis’ development as a musician. But Davis also helped Parker by providing him with heroin for musical knowledge.
Jazz piano has come a long way since its early days. It has been influenced by various styles of music and has evolved over the years to become a truly unique form of music.