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Description - The Great Jazz Pianists by Len Lyons

This comprehensive survey of jazz piano, beginning with a brief history of the instrument within the jazz tradition and concluding with interviews that present twenty-seven pianists in their own words, is both wonderfully anecdotal and a serious piece of jazz history. Lyons has assembled a giant concert of piano voices,Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Teddy Wilson, Oscar Peterson, Keith Jarrett, Randy Weston, Cecil Taylor, Horace Silver, Dave Brubeck, Sun Ra, McCoy Tyner, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Chick Corea, and many others. The pianists are candid, intense, and always opinionated. Yet their responses are infused with a keen appreciation for fellow musicians, their contemporaries, and those who came before,Walter, Tatum, Ellington. For pianists everywhere, whatever their individual style, this book will speak to and for you as it expresses the thoughts of its many great artists.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780306803437
ISBN-10: 0306803437
Format: Paperback
(229mm x 152mm x 22mm)
Pages: 321
Imprint: Da Capo Press Inc
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Publish Date: 1-Mar-1989
Country of Publication: United States

Book Reviews - The Great Jazz Pianists by Len Lyons

US Kirkus Review » In a welcome departure from the usual interview-book format, veteran jazz-journalist Lyons (The 101 Best Jazz Albums) fills in the context for these 27 brief talks with jazz-pianists - by first surveying (in less than 40 pages) the jazz-piano traditions: he efficiently sketches the developments from ragtime to stride to band-related swing; he notes the pivotal position of Art Tatum but also stresses the underrated influence of Milt Buckner and Nat "King" Cole; he reflects the variety of postwar trends. And the interviews themselves, each prefaced by a brief biography/appreciation, are strong on nuts-and-bolts material. All the players are asked about training, exercises, teaching, preferred instruments. (Only the late Mary Lou Williams, who bemoans the state of modern jazz, totally rejects the possible usefulness of classical training in jazz-piano.) The pianists discuss their influences - from Tatum and Teddy Wilson (himself an interview-ee) to lesser-knowns. George Shearing discusses braille music, names Dave McKenna as "the best pianist playing right now." (McKenna is, unfortunately, not among the subjects; see Whitney Balliett's profile instead.) Oscar Peterson, in the most densely technical of the interviews, reveals that his awesome agility was the result of obsessive 18-hour-a-day practice. Jimmy Rowles talks about accompanying singers, Ran Blake explains Third Stream, Randy Weston muses on his use of African sources. And all the artists - who also include John Lewis, Dave Brubeck, Marian McPartland, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Cecil Taylor, and Chick Corea (a Scientology devotee) - express their widely divergent feelings about electronic instruments. Not for those who look for anecdotes or eloquence in musician-chats - but a solid, unpretentious source of technique/artistry viewpoints for aspiring pianists and serious fans. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Len Lyons

Len Lyons is the author of The 101 Best Jazz Albums, a listener's guide to jazz on records. He has produced records, written liner notes, and contributed articles to Downbeat, Musician, Keyboard, and other magazines. A pianist himself, he studied with Lennie Tristano. He lives in Berkeley, California.