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This Jazz Piano Tutorial compares and distinguishes Early Jazz Piano from Modern Jazz Piano and discusses the differences.
In the early years of Jazz, and up until and including the Swing Era, the piano was still firmly rooted in the rhythm section of the band. This meant it had 2 roles:
– Play the chords
– Keep the beat going
So generally the pianist played very rhythmically, and helped keep the beat.
Now, during the Swing Era, jazz was generally played by Big Bands which had a full rhythm section consisting of drums, bass, guitar and piano. So slowly, pianists realised that if the drummer is keeping the beat, and the bass is playing a walking bassline, thus covering the bottom part of the register and also playing on the beat. Then there’s no need for the piano to duplicate the effort. So around the 1940’s pianists developed the technique of ‘comping – that is, varying your rhythm and just occasionally punctuating or pulsing the chords, often in between the phrases. This technique was pioneered by the pianist Earl Hines, who’s considered the father of modern jazz piano.
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