3 Famous Musicians You’ve Got To Know: Jazz Pianists
1. Duke Ellington (29 April 1899 to 24 May 1974)
His real name was Edward Kennedy Ellington, but his childhood friends nicknamed him Duke because of his elegant style. Both of his parents were pianists. His father played operatic arias while his mother preferred parlor songs. Duke grew up to be one of the best jazz pianists in history. He was also a composer and a bandleader. He led his jazz orchestra band from 1923 until his death in 1974. It is important to note that Duke wrote over one thousand compositions during his lifetime. In 1999, he received a Pulitzer Prize posthumously for his contribution to music.
2. Bill Evans (16 August 1929 to 15 September 1980)
His real name was William John Evans. He received his musical education at the Southeastern Louisiana University. He also studied at the Mannes School of Music. Born in New Jersey, he moved to New York in 1955 where he met and worked with George Russell. Russell was a jazz pianist, arranger, and composer. Bill joined a sextet led by Miles Davis in 1958. This group recorded the King of Blue, which is the highest selling jazz album in history. Bill Evans formed his own band in 1959. Sadly, he had to form another one in 1961 after one of his band members died. He released a solo album in the years that followed in addition to working with numerous artists.
3. Oscar Emmanuel Peterson (15 August 1925 to 23 December 2007)
Peterson was a Canadian citizen whose father was an immigrant from the West Indies. The family settled in Little Burgundy, Montreal. This neighborhood was rich in jazz culture because it had a predominantly black community. Consequently, Peterson decided to try the piano and the trumpet when he was five years old. He became one of the finest jazz pianists of all time. In fact, Duke Ellington referred to him as the ‘Prince of the Keyboard.’ He released more than 200 recordings during his lifetime. Unfortunately, Peterson struggled with many health issues during his lifetime including arthritis. Eventually, he died of kidney failure in 2007.