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Essay on the Development of the Piano in the Jazz Era

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Essay on Development of the Piano in the Jazz Era Around the beginning of the 20th century, the earliest Jazz piano style emerged, centred in New Orleans. Ragtime music came directly from the jazz styles of the early 20th century. Jelly Roll Morton, was one of the most prolific jazz pianists and was one of the founders of ragtime jazz music. He wrote many compositions himself and always insisted that the other musicians in his band played the music exactly as written, this was a sign of very little freedom in ragtime music. Although, Morton's piano music was all essentially ragtime music, it allowed for more than the norm in terms of freedom for improvisation. Over the years the piano was used very differently and even moved sections within the bands of the 20th century which played jazz music. It went from being a melodic instrument to being a part of the rhythm section along with the drums, bass and guitar. The development of the piano is very evident progressively through the jazz era. ...read more.


Morton is also regarded as the first true Jazz composer. The development over the coming years was to be huge as the style and uses of the piano differentiated throughout the twentieth century. The piano was playing chords in a rhythmic fashion; this was known as comping and was a form of rhythmic improvisation as the pianist had freedom to perform this as they wanted. In Louis Armstrong's West End Blues, the trumpet takes the frontline whilst the piano accompanies with comping of the chords. Later it then becomes more complex as the piano answers the trumpet part playing more complicated melodic lines. The texture is mainly melody and accompaniment, later on the development shows that frontline instruments play polyphonic melodic lines against one another. Count Basie, based In Kansas City was one of the world renowned jazz pianists of his time. He was influenced greatly by Fat's Waller and incorporated his 'stride' style of playing into his music. This was based on a blues orientated piano style of playing, the piano started to become more prominent in the likes of Count Basie's band rather than just being a member of the rhythm section. ...read more.


Thelonius Monk one of the revolutionary pianists of the Bebop era, he began to introduce more angular music rather than worrying about it being pleasant or tuneful to the ear. Polychords like those mentioned previously where also in full use at this point. Compound chords and added notes along with the basic triads became very common. Monk's work also used high levels of dissonance in comparison to other composers/arrangers pieces. The basic chords became more complex and his melody lines also became much more interesting which resulted in the adventurous piano parts we later heard in the likes of Straight No Chaser and some of the work of Gil Evans. In 'So What' by Miles Davis, the harmonic structure consisted of two different chords played in the same pattern throughout the piece. The piano was in control of this and although simple, it was a vital part as it gave scope for the improvising solo instrument parts playing above the accompaniment. Dminor7 and EflatMinor7 are the two chords that were used in this piece. ...read more.

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