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#1133952 - 03/03/08 09:55 PM Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
FlipSpiceland Offline
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Registered: 11/29/07
Posts: 24
Loc: Melbourne, FL
So I've been playing piano about 3 or 4 months now. My teacher has decided to take me down the non-classical path of blues and jazz, which is awesome, because honestly, I'm not a huge fan of classical music (although I do like Chopin). I also really like jazz fusion, so it's right up my alley. But...

When I started thinking about it, it seemed like all the best jazz pianists were classically trained from the beginning. I've had this looming feeling from the beginning that if I don't learn classical music, I will reach a plateau upon which it will be very hard to progress.

So what do you guys think? Who's the best jazz pianist who was not classically trained? Is there any hope for the people that take the 'exclusively jazz' route?

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#1133953 - 03/03/08 10:31 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
jazzwee Offline
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Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7086
Loc: So. California
I'm learning jazz. I was never taught classical music. Although now I can play it. I don't think I lost a beat. There's so much to learn in jazz that if you're not into classical, why not use that time on something more important to your needs?

My teacher, who's a jazz master, may have been brought up on classical as a kid but I don't think he's spent that much time with it either. So if it's no major loss to him, I can't imagine it affecting me much.
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#1133954 - 03/03/08 10:33 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
LiszThalberg Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/13/06
Posts: 3288
Art Tatum...

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#1133955 - 03/04/08 01:23 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
Mr_Kitty Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/07
Posts: 667
Loc: Toronto
Forgive my ignorance, as I know nothing of jazz.

Haven't most of the great jazz pianists been brought up on jazz?

I know Herbie was a child prodigy in the classical genre and he probably has a good deal of company but aren't there many jazz pianists who have never played classical in their lives?

As for your plateau I really cannot offer an informed opinion on that. The only informed opinion that I CAN offer is that if you really want to learn to play, then the style of music you choose to study really shouldn't hold you back. Unless it's New Age.

You can develop a flawless technique without ever playing classical music. You just need a teacher who knows his stuff. And you can't mess around. Of course there's hope.... lol

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#1133956 - 03/04/08 03:52 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
ktom Offline
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Registered: 05/07/07
Posts: 212
Loc: Somerset UK
Erroll Garner - never even learned to read music:-) I think there is a thread somewhere covering a very similar topic...
kt
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#1133957 - 03/04/08 04:39 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
Innominato Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/08
Posts: 802
Loc: London
As far as I know, jazz started developing seriously in New Orleans, mainly in the brothels and the "speakeasies" of the prohibitionism era.

I think that a fair amount of those early players not only did not know the staves, some of them must not have known the alphabet at all.

People like Louis Armstrong learned music by following funerals as little children, spending time around the greatest jazz players who were around in New Orleans at the time, growing in the middle of the music of a city in love with it.

I do not think that "classical education" has ever been a concern there. And great, great musicians came out of those brothels and speakeasies, so I would not be overly concerned about that...
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#1133958 - 03/04/08 08:38 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
monkmonk Offline
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Registered: 09/08/07
Posts: 84
Loc: Osaka, Japan
Classical and jazz share the same 12 notes it's just the phrasing and intention behind the music that creates the difference. You have to follow your own path.

Maybe starting off ignoring classical is the way for you, but I think you will find that beautiful sounds are in the most unlikely places including classical, rock, West African Classical Music, Indian Classical music, Turkish Classical music etc... and you should follow what hits home, not what someone tells you to do.

Art Tatum was classically trained, he learned by reading braille or so the legend goes.

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#1133959 - 03/04/08 10:18 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
wavelength Offline
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Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 340
Loc: Vermont, USA
Thelonious Monk. Wynton Kelly. Red Garland. Bud Powell.

In the 60's you started finding cats from conservatory, but before that it was the exception rather than the rule. I can't guarantee that none of those cats every had traditional piano lessons, but they weren't "classically trained" in the graduate-from-conservatory-become-a-concert-pianist sense.

The music is definitely more complex than it was in its early days in New Orleans, and bears serious study and practice. And jazz educators are pretty good at teaching the stuff these days (while classical teachers are not).

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#1133960 - 03/04/08 01:10 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
FlipSpiceland Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/29/07
Posts: 24
Loc: Melbourne, FL
Thanks for the responses. I've always found the 'golden age' of jazz an interesting time. Many players just learned to play by ear, which seems to be an interesting path, at least to me. Without learning any of the theory behind jazz, it's like you'd have to create your own system of thought, which, can be a very good thing.

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#1133961 - 04/05/08 06:35 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
MDes Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/05
Posts: 30
Loc: Vancouver, BC
I don't think it's necessarily because they were taught classical music, but instead because of the way that classical music is taught. Often, in classical teaching a lot more attention is paid to how to physically utilize the arms and body, phrasing, relaxation, etc. Jazz instruction tends to focus more not on how to play but what to play, probably since you don't have the exact notes in front of you like you do in classical music. Of course, if you simply pay attention to everything while learning jazz, I don't see how it would be any different.

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#1133962 - 04/05/08 06:55 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
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Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
Listen to Chick Corea play and you might change your mind about the value having a classical background has when playing jazz. The man can, and does, do ANYTHING, on the piano.....and does it better than just about anyone else.
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#1133963 - 04/05/08 09:06 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
jazzyprof Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/04
Posts: 2629
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
It is true that the jazz pianists of the bebop era were not "conservatory trained" but many did have some traditional classical lessons in their youth. Take Bud Powell for instance...
Bud-on-Bach

I don't think there's anything wrong with the exclusively jazz route if the emphasis is on musicianship. I find that good jazz musicians are able to do things that the average classical pianist can't do very well. They can play any chord and its extensions and inversions as well as any chord progression without having to refer to the music. They can transpose on the fly. And, most importantly, they can improvise.

In my case I turned to classical piano because I sucked at jazz. I found it difficult to sound good. Then I read Oscar Peterson's autobiography in which he talked about studying Bach's Inventions and Chopin etudes, as well as Czerny and Hanon and how it all helped his technique. That turned me on to playing Bach and Chopin because I thought it would help me with jazz. And now that's all I play!
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#1133964 - 04/06/08 12:11 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
Elssa Online   content
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Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1565
Loc: NY
I would suggest to learn to read music (staffs) and chord symbols (from fake books, etc.), but also definitely learn to play by ear at some point. When you are able to play by ear, you can play any type of music, classical, pop, jazz, etc, including melody and chords. \:\)

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#1133965 - 04/06/08 02:51 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
BDB Online   content
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Just because pianists never studied at a conservatory does not mean that they they never studied classical music.

I had a friend who told me that the first person he heard play Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata was Fats Waller.
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#1133966 - 04/08/08 03:13 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
rintincop Offline
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Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1521
Wynton Kelly, the best jazz pianist period.
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#1133967 - 04/08/08 10:26 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
AD Offline
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Registered: 05/18/06
Posts: 193
There is no 'best', but if I had to make a list Art Tatum would be in the top one ;\)

I recall reading that Tatum had some violin lessons (taught him something of harmonics) when he was around 9/10, but soon gave up and took some piano lessons in his early teens. At that stage in his life he had partial vision after surgery on cataracts. A mugging when he was about 20 caused further damage to his sight. However he could still see enough to play cards and pool, and you can see him peering sideways at the piano on youtube videos.
I always get the feeling that Tatum was mainly self taught, having listened to live performers, piano rolls, and various radio artists.
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#1133968 - 04/08/08 11:30 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
FlipSpiceland Offline
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Registered: 11/29/07
Posts: 24
Loc: Melbourne, FL
I don't know if I'm at the point where I can really appreciate Art Tatum. When I listen to him, I'm just blown away by what he's playing, but it goes by so fast that I don't really even have time to realize what just happened. As a result, it's hard for me to listen to his music. If he achieved what he did through self-teaching, then that is nothing short of amazing.

After having a couple of weeks to think about the topic of this thread, I think I've decided that it doesn't really matter whether a pianist has been classically trained or not. What really makes a great pianist is having the creativity and vision to express their self. Things like technique fall into place as long as you know where you want to go. In order to develop that vision, it helps to expose yourself to different genres of music, either by playing or actively listening. This allows you to expand your musical vocabulary to better express yourself.

With that said, I will probably still dabble in classical music because I think there is a lot to be gained by being able to play it.

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#1133969 - 04/11/08 02:17 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
nottasmartman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/28/05
Posts: 64
Loc: Pacific Northwest
Give Hampton Hawes a try. Not trained in the classics, but he seemed to get "it" and be able to put "it" on the keys. Real soulful stuff. Randy Weston and Phineas Newborn may also interest you.
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#1133970 - 04/18/08 01:05 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
march56 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/18/08
Posts: 7
Loc: San Diego CA.
I started as a kid with classical. But didn't take it much beyond the 3rd grade book level. As a teen I was taught chord symbols, improv, etc. I felt that I could play anything! However I didn't really develop my reading ability. I can read but not on the spot. I beleive the reading part and to a lesser degree the studies and exercises etc. are lost by the jazz player who doesn't learn "classical". But I also feel that a pianist is truly limiting themselves and missing out if they only follow the road to jazz. Many classical students can play nothing without their music or music they've memorized, but...many jazz students can play nothing from the entire collection of written music for the piano which is a tragic loss. It would be like the difference between being able to read books vs. being limited to audio books...
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#1133971 - 04/18/08 02:03 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
Jeff Bauer Offline
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Registered: 07/28/03
Posts: 1718
Loc: Los Angeles
My take on this is learning classical doesn't hurt, in fact it helps for building technique, learning new shapes, and playing ways (fingering) that you otherwise might never have figured out. It costs time, but as long as it doesn't suck the enjoyment out of playing for you, why not?

I am not classically trained, but I do classical exercises and read through songs here and there to try to sharpen my reading/playing skills.
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#1133972 - 05/05/08 05:05 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
pianobroker Offline
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Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 4309
Loc: North Hollywood CA.
The benefits that classical piano offers to the proficiency level of a jazz musician is discipline as to building technique,finger dexterity,sight reading skills and expansion of harmonic and rhythmic concepts of the classical composers. To be a versatile professional musician you need to be able to read AND play by ear. It is a serious limitation as a professional musician only to be able to do one or the other. Nobody will hire you for a session. Your sources and possible influences are going to be limited if one can't read.(instructional material,transcriptions etc.)
One thing I will say,the transition from classical to jazz for many musicians is detrimental to many players if they choose to make that transition late in the game. "One has to learn to play on the street." One is conditioned in a totally different perspective and approach and many can't make that transition as a "feel player" no matter what they do or how intense they practice.Oscar Peterson and Sir Roland Hanna are examples of gifted players whom could do both and still "grove" so to speak. The respect for feel/grove players is much more so than one with technical ability with no "feel" So....whats the anwser,you either got it or you don't. You can teach someone the fundamentals of jazz but you can't teach creative improvisation. A prominent jazz authority and teacher told me teaching jazz is a one on one proposition in that it is an unorthodox idiom which some learn by imitation,analysing the masters while others just do their own thing not having the desire or capability to play like Evans,Peterson Shearing,Powell etc.
One other point,many have commented that Art Tatum was not really jazz in that his solos were the same note for note not being true improvisation. Thats OK if I could play Tatum like Tatum who cares what people think \:\)
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#1133973 - 05/05/08 09:29 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
RafaelSF Offline
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Registered: 04/23/08
Posts: 39
Loc: San Francisco
Nat "King" Cole.

Get a hold of some of his recordings with his trio, before he became a pop star and was taken away from the piano by Capitol Records so he could focus on singing.

Obviously Art Tatum is up there for most people and with good reason. If some of his solo recordings might be too overwhelming for you (as they are for me), there is a series of CDs out there of Tatum playing with "friends" who include Ben Webster, Buddy DeFranco and many others. Those are more in a trio or quartet context and it's a different kind of playing from his solo work, but still beautiful and masterful.

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#1133974 - 05/26/08 02:10 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
etcetra Offline
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Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
I think nowdays majority of jazz pianists are classically trained, and the benefits of having that training is priceless, it will give you a very solid technical foundation.

I think the problem nowdays is that jazz education is way too influenced by classical education, and there is less and less emphasis on rhythm and style, and the use of your ears. That influence eems most apparent in conservatory level education.

George Duke made a great observation about young jazz pianists in his website.. it's something thats definitely worth checking out

btw, i have to disagree with pianobroker's idea that creative improvisation and feel is something innate and cant be taught.. I think the problem with late starter is that you haven't had the exposure to groove and the creative process that is in jazz.. in that respect its similar to technique, its something that can be worked on and improved over time. I am sure Oscar Peterson was exposed to gospel and other "Feel" based music since when he was young, so i dont think his transition is as dramatic as you describe it

I've talked a lot of great musicians who told me they learned how to play by imitating..Ray Brown once said that he used to steal so much ideas from Oscar Pettiford that people used to call him "Ray Pettiford". And i think a lot of the great innovators we know have spend a lot of time learning and imitating the masters in their own ways. And a lot of them say that their individuality was just a bi-product of imitating. I think what separates them from being bland clone is the fact that the developed the skills that was important for them..and they weren't influenced by trends or what they are supposed to sound like. It doens't meant they didnt spend a considerable amount of time emulating other people's styles.

I guess i will leave you with a quote from mozart

"It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I. There is scarcely a famous master in music whose works I have not frequently and diligently studied."

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#1133975 - 06/05/08 04:53 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
pianobroker Offline
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Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 4309
Loc: North Hollywood CA.
 Quote:
btw, i have to disagree with pianobroker's idea that creative improvisation and feel is something innate and cant be taught.. I think the problem with late starter is that you haven't had the exposure to groove and the creative process that is in jazz.. in that respect its similar to technique, its something that can be worked on and improved over time. I am sure Oscar Peterson was exposed to gospel and other "Feel" based music since when he was young, so i dont think his transition is as dramatic as you describe it
etcetra......As a jazz educator how would
one propose to teach creative improvisation or "feel" other than suggesting to one to go out and play "live" with as many other players as possible.Playing with a rythum section is invaluble and an experience that you'll benefit more than any instructional series alone.The problem with many documented jazz instructional series is that they tell you systematically what modes,scales etc. are accepted as a basis of improvisation. "They fail to tell you once you learn the rules than you break them". If you don't you sound like everybody else. \:D
Realistically if one for years on end have stayed within the stringent, disciplinary guidelines of classical piano performance,how could one adapt easily to the mindset of a jazz musician. Better yet how could one play the "blues" soulfully upon just completeing "Blues for Dummies I"
\:D I played classical for many years before making the transition to playing jazz. I can tell from many years of Hanon,Czherny,Bach 2 part inventions it does affect the way one percieves jazz improvisation other than benefiting from elevated technique. For one thing most classical teachers still don't teach chordal theory so most aspiring classical pianists wouldn't know a 13th chord with a flat 9th unless you spelled it out on the staff. As everybody is aware classical repetoire is the same notes for everyone with no opprotunity for improvisation.
Most classical players initially get exposed to so called jazz from imitation from direct transcriptions of the jazz greats. Sightreading skills and technique definitely help in the classical player making the transition to playing jazz. I'n not in total disagreement with you as for the jazz idiom being taught but that alone is not enough."You gotta pay your dues playing on the street at those $50 gigs".
John Tesh managed to make that transition from classical to ....... I rest my case. :rolleyes:
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#1133976 - 01/14/09 02:48 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
pianobroker,

I am sorry for the late response, I hope you will get the chance to read this. I don't disagree with you about the fact that the kind of systematic learning you describe won't help you become a good jazz musicians.. mainly because most jazz musicians didn't really learn that way.

A lot of jazz musicians emphasize that you learn almost everything by imitation, by ear, transcribing, and playing with the record.. its from doing tons of transcription that they were able to acquire the feel they want. By playing along with someone else's solos you have the chance to really get inside their sounds.

I've talked to friend and teachers, and I am always surprised to hear about how much transcriptions they've done.. some of them can even play along with an entire record of Oscar Peterson.. which is amazing.

I guess another thing people don't realize is how much jazz musicians steal ideas.. a lot of the greats spent a lot of time trying to sound just like Oscar Peterson or Bud Powell. I remember a story about ray brown.. he said that he used to steal so much from Oscar Pettiford that people used to call him "ray Pettiford"

I think learning a 'feel' whether its in funk or jazz, or anything else.. is a lot like language.. you imitate long enough at one point, it will start to become a natural part of you.. the problem is that if you are an adult learning a foregin language it may be harder.. but nevertheless you can still become fluent in a new language over time

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#1133977 - 01/14/09 02:59 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
In fact, a lot of older jazz musicians I met hate jazz books in general.. it's not how they learned, and a lot of them seems to be very frustrated about the fact that people are playing out of real books.

Btw now days most jazz pianists are classical trained..most university require you x amount of classical training as jazz majors.. but it really varies from people to people.. I read that Kenny Kirkland studied to become a concert pianist.. while kenny werner admits that he never really went that far in his classical training, because he was never into it.

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#1133978 - 01/14/09 05:05 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
jjtpiano Offline
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Registered: 06/19/08
Posts: 213
Loc: Jamestown, NC
We should mention, though, that one of the best jazz players of all time was classically trained. He composed and conducted in addition to treating us to some of the finest piano jazz music ever played.

Andre Previn.

I think he's better than Erroll Garner.

You certainly can listen to him for a longer period of time.
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#1133979 - 01/14/09 10:55 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
 Quote:
Originally posted by jjtpiano:
We should mention, though, that one of the best jazz players of all time was classically trained. He composed and conducted in addition to treating us to some of the finest piano jazz music ever played.

Andre Previn.

I think he's better than Erroll Garner.

You certainly can listen to him for a longer period of time. [/b]
Isn't that really a matter of opinion & taste?? Andre Previn is not in the list of my favorite jazz pianists.

Art tatum is considered to be the best of all time and I read that he was not classically trained.

From what I read about Oscar Peterson, George Shearing, Red Garland.. etc their classical background was quite unusual.. some of the either didn't go very far with it, or in the case of Oscar, he picked up a lot of classical pieces by ear.

Makoto Ozone is a another fine jazz pianist who had no "formal" training so to speak.

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#1133980 - 01/14/09 11:23 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
MonksDream Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/08/08
Posts: 101
Loc: Vancouver, BC
One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of the jazz pianists would have learned classical pieces because that is what was current in the households of their youth. Oscar Peterson's dad used to give all of the Peterson kids classical pieces to learn by the time he returned home from his route on the railroad. His sister taught classical piano.

Another place where many jazz pianists got their training was in the church. Depending on denomination they would have been exposed to classical liturgical music as well as gospel.

One thing you can say for classical training is that several hundred years of keyboard experience should not be dismissed lightly, particularly if you enjoy the music. If you don't enjoy it play something else.

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#1133981 - 01/14/09 11:29 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
etcetra Offline
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Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
I think a lot of it is matter of degree.. I do work on classical pieces, and I personally would want to play Chopin etudes, but I don't want to say that you have to be able to do that in order to be a jazz pianist, because not every jazz pianist did.

I wrote this somewhere else, but in my experience a lot of university jazz majors have to put up with a lot of classical training, some schools require that you do junior recital in classical.. and as a result, a lot of people are frustrated because they just don't have enough time to work on their jazz stuff.

Sometimes people have this notion that a jazz pianist have to play classical in order to be 'legit' and I don't quite like that attitude. I love classical music, but some people's attitude about it is kind of a turn off.

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#1133982 - 01/15/09 01:24 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
BDB Online   content
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 Quote:
Makoto Ozone is a another fine jazz pianist who had no "formal" training so to speak.
When I met him, he was studying a Mozart Concerto.
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#1133983 - 01/15/09 01:35 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
I read that he's recently studying classical piano with a teacher.. but from what I know he did not have classical training growing up.. he played mostly by ear. i guess I should make it clear that a good number of jazz pianists did not have an extensive conservatory-level classical training.

I am not really for or against classical training.. i think its good if it's something you want to learn, I just don't like people who says you have to do classical in order to jazz, or people says that you shouldn't do classical if you want to do jazz, everyone is different.

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#1133984 - 01/15/09 06:03 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
pianobroker Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 4309
Loc: North Hollywood CA.
etcetera,I'm glad you decided to respond to my post eight months later \:D It's been so long I wonder if my views on this subject remain unchanged. Probably so!. A few additional thoughts come to mind.
You have to admit,a classically trained musician whom desires to make that transition to playing jazz is gonna approach this task with a whole different perspective than one whom initially relies on his ear with minimal technique and proficiency in the beginning years as a growing jazz musician. The classically trained musician is at an advantage and at the same time a disadvantage in learning and playing the true essence of jazz. The classically trained musician hopefully has reached a certain proficiency level whereas he can hack through an Oscar Peterson transcribed solo,hopefully getting a grasp on what Oscar is doing initially through imitation. The "green jazz musician"in the beginning does not have the facility or technique to even attempt this route in the beginning. His only knowledge base is off the street through his own creativity and improvisation. Of course,he learns from mentors along the way.The disadvantage of the classically trained musician and there are exceptions to the rule is many have a hard time "swinging " because his approach is the same approach as to learning a Beethoven Sonata.
Now with one that is learning to play on the street one can't even imagine learning and playing an Oscar solo transcription. I can imagine for many classical pianists,one's idea and perception of playing Jazz piano is playing Gerhwin's Rhapsody in Blue. I remember years back going to see a so called jazz pianist at a local after hours jazz hang out for musicians. Though this pianist had the chops and technique of the masters,he among his peers gained minimal respect as a jazz musician. Creativity almost always gains more respect over virtuosity.
I actually have respect for blues pianists in that though limited in their facility,one has to rely on "feel". I've seen more so called jazz pianists that can't play the blues to save their life. I've seen more jazz guitarists out of Berklee that can't play guitar.I rather play with Stevie Ray Vaughn than some guitarist in the college stage band. My advice,Move out of your parent's house into a local rooming house to live the life as a jazz or blues musician giving true meaning to playing the blues as a jazz musician.
\:D
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#1133985 - 01/15/09 08:33 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
pianobroker,

i wrote this in a different post, but studying jazz at school can be quite frustrating, mostly because you do so much classical stuff that you spend very little time on jazz. You read through chord changes and solos, and a lot of times you forget to use your ears.

I heard a story about this very famous jazz bassist.. he will give you a free lesson but he ask you to bring a real book that you are using. And the first thing he does is tear the real book apart and tell you never to use it again.

I know that is kind of extreme, but it takes very different skill to, let say transcribe/play Oscar Peterson's solo by ear without writing it down than to study it out of a transcription book.. classical training can prepare you technically but it will not prepare you for that kind of learning by ear.

I agree that the best way to learn is to go out there and play.. but I guess the problem is that there are less and less place where you can go and play.. my teachers talked about how they used to be more places to gig and cut their teeth, but now there's less and less..

My teachers also told me The school i used to go to had midnight jam sessions all the time decades ago, now there are hardly any, partly because the whole security situation makes it harder to find a room that late.

unfortunately, school is all they got for some people, and its not easy finding that kind of enviroment..

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#1133986 - 01/15/09 05:42 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
MonksDream Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/08/08
Posts: 101
Loc: Vancouver, BC
etcetra, I totally agree and sympathize with your comment about lack of places to go and play. The only way to learn how you will sound with a group is to play with one and there are precious few places to do that.

I go to a number of "jam sessions" here in town but the repertoire (safe Real Book tunes) and the logistics of being a piano player (bring your own gear? play the beat-up Wurly?) make them less than ideal, though much appreciated.

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#1133987 - 01/15/09 08:14 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
MonksDream,

When i went to school I was in LA.. there were jam sessions if you look for them.. but from what I was told its nothing like what it used to be.

I am surprised to hear that some of my teachers weren't very good at all when they started.. but they were able to play 5 nights a gig and get better that way.. Of course they practiced, they had an enviroment where they could play all the time if they wanted to.

I remember few of my friends i had in schools used to find a way to open the rehearsal rooms and jam, it was fun, I just thought.. it would be like that all the time.

i guess the only thing you can do is keep on playing and make things happen for yourself. I wish you good luck.

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#1133988 - 01/15/09 08:42 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
btw the reason I am not all that crazy about classical training is because when i started college, I had a classical teacher, who basically told me that I won't be doing much jazz while I am in college.. I will be doing classical so that when i get out of school I would be ready to play jazz..

It was bogus, I could have acquired chops from transcribing and doing jazz stuff.. I quit after one semester and i was glad.. I knew friends who went through the program and it was ironic.. I wasn't as technically proficient as they were, but they all envyed me for the kinds of lines/idea I was playing. most of my friends from that school stopped playing jazz after college.

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#1133989 - 01/29/09 03:49 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
nitekatt2008z Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/08
Posts: 552
Although mainly known as a jazz organ player, I don't think Joey DeFrancesco had any formal training in classical instruction, other than what he picked up from his father who was a pro organist himself. Also in an interview, Joey stated he is not a good sight reader at all and relies on his ear.

Another fine jazz pianist in the bay area and a staff psychiatrist, Denny Zeitland was not classically trained.

I was not classically trained at all and didn't even work on any Bach until I went to Berklee. I actually had no desire to learn nor listen to any classical music until I went to school there and then really got into Bach, which helped me learn hand independance, reading and fingering. I dabble with Mozart, Bach, Chopin, but only for study, not to perform or master it. I'm not disciplined enough to struggle through all that work. My classical guru is Glenn Gould, the real Bach master and Horowitz.

katt

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#1133990 - 01/29/09 06:12 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
nitekatt2008z,

I am kind of the same here.. I started music late, and right now I just want to focus mainly on jazz stuff. I would like to learn Chopin etudes and Beethoven's Waldenstein sonata.. etc in the future, but I don't see my self practicing them 5 hrs a day for 4 months to play them at a performance level.

I was surprise to hear that Kenny Werner didn't go very far in classical (according to an interview). I guess its different for everyone

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#1133991 - 01/31/09 06:23 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Reference, on the subject of jazz pianists that had formal training. I rate the Japanese pianist, Makota Ozone as one of the best current classical trained players. Try and obtain the DVD duo, with him and Garry Burton Vibes, cannot recall the title this moment.

If you like the great Beethoven Sonatas, there is a new DVD out of Daniel Barenboim playing the complete piano sonatas in Berlin, I have vol.2, of 2 at least.EMI Classics.

Erroll Garner never learned to play the piano classically and only by ear in any case jazz plus his popular song 'Misty'. Conversely, Fats Waller did and mostly on the church organ originally. One of the greatest jazz composers ever, his compositions are still common to most people, having stood the test of time.

swingal,

PS; The Beetoven compositions I like greatly but will never be able to play them as I'm only a 'by ear player' and jazz solely,cannot read a note of muisic.

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#1133992 - 01/31/09 06:48 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
jasnicklv Offline
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Registered: 01/31/09
Posts: 27
Loc: las vegas, nv
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#1133993 - 01/31/09 10:41 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
swingal,

From what I read about Makoto Ozone, he did not have classical training growing up.. he played mostly by ear. It's only much later in his life that he started studying classical music seriously.

I also read about how oscar peterson had classical lessons from his sister, but his ears were so good that he picked up most of the music by ear.


Janicklv

I think the great classical composers we know all transcribed, they had excellent ears.. its funny how many of the college students can play very demanding repritore, and yet at the same time they have hard time learning simple pop songs by ear. Not only that, a lot of people seem to play the pieces and they don't seem to really know what is going on as a composition.

I do find something strange about how piano is taught.. it seems a little unbalanced, but considering the fact that classical pianists practice 5-8 hrs a day.. maybe its important that they are that specialized.

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#1133994 - 02/03/09 11:17 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
jasnicklv Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/31/09
Posts: 27
Loc: las vegas, nv
I agree with RafaelSF's pix of Nat Cole
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#1133995 - 02/04/09 09:06 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
MonksDream Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/08/08
Posts: 101
Loc: Vancouver, BC
 Quote:
Originally posted by jasnicklv:
I agree with RafaelSF's pix of Nat Cole---IF Cole indeed did not start with classics. Cole may be simplistic, but he captured the essence of voicing, pacing, comping, et al.

James [/b]
Nat "King" Cole simplistic??!! How can that assessment appear in the same sentence as "he captured the essence of voicing, pacing, comping, et al."? Try playing through his version of "Indiana" or "The Man on the Little White Keys". Marvels of economy? Yes. Simplistic? Nope. The same applies to Thelonious Monk.

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#1133996 - 02/05/09 09:44 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
jasnicklv Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/31/09
Posts: 27
Loc: las vegas, nv
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#1133997 - 02/06/09 05:39 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3160
 Quote:
Originally posted by nitekatt2008z:

Another fine jazz pianist in the bay area and a staff psychiatrist, Denny Zeitland was not classically trained. [/b]
 Quote:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Denny Zeitlin is a jazz pianist born in Chicago, Illinois on April 10, 1938.
He originally had classical piano training,[/b] but then switched to medicine.
Which story is correct?
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#1133998 - 02/06/09 08:19 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
jasnicklv Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/31/09
Posts: 27
Loc: las vegas, nv
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James

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#1133999 - 02/06/09 08:22 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
jasnicklv Offline
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Registered: 01/31/09
Posts: 27
Loc: las vegas, nv
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James

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#1134000 - 02/07/09 03:29 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
BJones Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/08
Posts: 1043
Loc: Queens, NY
The strongest similarities between classical and jazz piano are their similar, general pedagogy, they're both played on pianos, and the materials for general musical construction are very similar, the same 12 tones, the same gravitational tendencies of their 12 tone system, etc.
The approach is where you'll find the biggest difference. What makes them nothing alike is the differing premise in which the classical and jazz pianist approaches the piano. Their vastly different purposes that make jazz and classical piano polar opposites.
Classical pianists are sinlgemindedly dedicated to "play the heads" of others. They are selfless, their main goals to reproduce the music of whose compositions they study and perform.
Jazz pianists should be singlemindedly dedicated to play "thier own head". They should be selfish in their pursuit of id-driven (id, as in bringing the subconscious thoughts to the surface and then as sound in the air) communication, with themselves and others.
Classical players are apt to play regimentedly practiced pieces perfectly, with nary a thought, their training doing the performing.
Jazz players should strive to exhibit spontaneity, musical ideas building as they play in a feedback type of loop, each idea giving rise to more music, the jazz pianist must be present consciously in the creation at all times.
Technically, the technique of a jazz player must be maleable and open to fingerings that would be quite unorthodix to the clasical players, because spontaneous lines may not fall easily into the classically trained, Hanon-Czerny trained hand.
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#1134001 - 02/07/09 07:51 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
Also I think when jazz musicians play classical pieces, their main goal is to understand the music as a composition and draw ideas for their improvisation, whereas classical musician's focus is in "perfecting the piece". I don't want to say they are two different worlds, but there is a big difference between them.

I met so many competent classically-trained musicians who just couldn't improvise. I asked them to just freely play whatever came to them with no harmonic/rhythmic context, and they just couldn't. they just don't know what that means..they kept on asking me what to do.

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#1134002 - 02/07/09 12:04 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
BJones Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/08
Posts: 1043
Loc: Queens, NY
 Quote:
Originally posted by etcetra:
Also I think when jazz musicians play classical pieces, their main goal is to understand the music as a composition and draw ideas for their improvisation, whereas classical musician's focus is in "perfecting the piece". I don't want to say they are two different worlds, but there is a big difference between them.

I met so many competent classically-trained musicians who just couldn't improvise. I asked them to just freely play whatever came to them with no harmonic/rhythmic context, and they just couldn't. they just don't know what that means..they kept on asking me what to do. [/b]
Pretty close. Classical pianists play by musical analysis then muscular memory and rote, whereby successful jazz-improvising pianists play by instinctual ingraining.
Instant composition, played in the moment (the highest form of jazz improv.) never occurs via rote and muscular memory. The engine is always revving, never idling.
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Some recent improvisations:

Cool School Chopin:

http://www.mediafire.com/?d1yc1mmitew

Improvisations:

http://www.box.net/shared/bjv6yc34oo

http://www.box.net/shared/8lmc3hzikl


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#1134003 - 02/08/09 04:11 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Some jazz pianists were never trained at all. They played by ear and had the ability to memorize the piece and play it in their own style and as jazz, often.

I never had any lessons though I took my young sister to the teacher near where we lived and sat there listening. When we got home I could remember the piece and help her when she went wrong all by ear. I never learned to play by the score nor could I read it. I started when about 4 and my mother showed me how to pick out a tune, she was quite proficient at pure ear only playing.

It is a matter of memorizing the 12 notes and their sounds and playing improvisations based on the song in the subconscious memory. Not an over night, easy success story but many years of constant practice.

Erroll Garner made a complete career of playing completely based on the above means.

I just look at the piano keyboard and each key has its sound.

swingal

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#1134004 - 02/08/09 04:12 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Some jazz pianists were never trained at all. They played by ear and had the ability to memorize the piece and play it in their own style and as jazz, often.

I never had any lessons though I took my young sister to the teacher near where we lived and sat there listening. When we got home I could remember the piece and help her when she went wrong all by ear. I never learned to play by the score nor could I read it. I started when about 4 and my mother showed me how to pick out a tune, she was quite proficient at pure ear only playing.

It is a matter of memorizing the 12 notes and their sounds and playing improvisations based on the song in the subconscious memory. Not an over night, easy success story but many years of constant practice.

Erroll Garner made a complete career of playing completely based on the above means.

I just look at the piano keyboard and each key has its sound.

swingal

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#1134005 - 02/08/09 05:29 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
On the matter of Art Tatum may I suggest you visit WIKIPEDIA and type in Art Tatum. They write a very clear history of Art's life.

Many of the great musicians of our recall seem to have had a hard time. How sad isn't it ?

swingal

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#1134006 - 02/08/09 06:57 AM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
swingal,

That is very true about a lot of the older musicians, I know Chet Baker couldn't read music, and people like stan getz is more into following their ears than charts.

But I think the trends have changed since then, a lot of people have classical training, and jazz is taught in more of a formal setting.. most of us were taught to use abersold rather than follow our ears. .and a lot of older musicians are not happy about that because that is not how they learned. It's an interesting dilemma, and in some ways I like the ear approach better.

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#1134007 - 02/20/09 07:21 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
Wilson Frazão Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/06/09
Posts: 24
Loc: Portugal
I think you don't have to care with that nowadays, just learn the piano and try to be versatile...
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#1134008 - 02/21/09 04:49 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Topic: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained.

To stick to the subject precisely Erroll Garner is tops in my opinion. Not only was he non trained but his style was unique and very hard to copy. In fact I have never heard anyone play like him.

A gem and a true ear player in all aspects of jazz. I play his DVD and other tapes very frequently. I have met him and the world was at a great loss when he passed away at a very young age just like Fats and others too. The jazz lifestyle is very hard on health I think.

swingal

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#1134009 - 02/21/09 06:45 PM Re: Best jazz pianist *not* classically trained
daviel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/07
Posts: 933
Loc: Waxahachie, Texas
Erroll Garner was a genius.
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