The Tracks

“This album is my tribute to 16 pianists whose work has been such an inspiration to me as I continue my own journey as a creative musician. The following notes are intended to convey my feelings about each piece on the CD and the jazz piano legend associated with it.”

Geoff Eales

Geoff Eales

(with associated piano legend)

1. Night Train (Oscar Peterson)
2. Misty (Erroll Garner)
3. Take 5 (Dave Brubeck)
4. Tea for Two (Art Tatum)
5. Jitterbug Waltz (Fats Waller)
6. Lullaby of Birdland (George Shearing)
7. 'Round Midnight (Thelonius Monk)
8. Bouncing with Bud (Bud Powell)
9. Waltz for Debby (Bill Evans)
10. Maple Leaf Rag (Scott Joplin)
11. Song for my Father (Horace Silver)
12. My Song (Keith Jarrett)
13. Single Petal of a Rose (Duke Ellington)
14. Armando’s Rhumba (Chick Corea)
15. Search for Peace (McCoy Tyner)
16. Watermelon Man (Herbie Hancock)

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Oscar Peterson

The pianist who exercised the biggest influence on me as a child was without doubt the Canadian, Oscar Peterson. Blessed with an awesome technique, his infectious swing and love of the blues has thrilled audiences for well over half a century and he continues to be one of jazz’s best-loved ambassadors. Though Night Train was not written by Peterson (the tune, credited to tenor man Jimmy Forest, in fact originated from Happy Go Lucky Local, the final part of Duke Ellington’s Deep South Suite of 1946), the number will always be associated with the Oscar Peterson Trio recorded on the Night Train album in 1962.

Erroll Garner

Erroll Garner was a real one-off. Completely self-taught, he began playing piano at the age of 3 but never deemed it necessary to read music and never regretted it. As he would often say: “You can’t hear a person read!” Like Peterson he was a great “swinger”. One of the characteristics of his style was a driving left hand, the right hand lagging slightly behind the beat. Whilst his music is full of impish humour, he also had the knack of writing the occasional beautiful ballad such as the perennial Misty, first recorded in 1954.

Dave Brubeck

The Dave Brubeck Quartet achieved near pop-idol status following the release of Take Five in 1959. It went on to sell a million copies – not bad for a jazz composition! The tune is credited to Paul Desmond but is in fact a joint collaboration, the middle 8 having been actually written by Brubeck. The Brubeck Quartet was one of the first jazz groups to experiment with complex time signatures like 5/4 (as in Take Five), 9/8 – divided into 2+2+2+3 (Blue Rondo à la Turk) and 7/4 (Unsquare Dance).

Art Tatum

Art Tatum has never been surpassed as far as sheer technique is concerned. He had two ridiculously fast hands, his touch as light as a feather. He was harmonically very inventive, often unexpectedly sliding from key to key but always in a perfectly logical manner. Having mastered the Harlem Stride technique originated by James P Johnson, he used it as part of his armoury but was never a slave to it. Within just a few bars he could change gear from a flowing rubato to acrobatic stride to classical bravura, often quoting from other tunes along the way – a practice later taken up by boppers such as Charlie Parker and Bud Powell. Vincent Youmans’s Tea for Two was to become his signature tune and a test-piece for many jazz pianists following in his wake.

Fats Waller

If Art Tatum was a brilliant elaborator of other people’s creations, Fats Waller was a brilliant composer and songwriter in his own right, as well as being as excellent pianist in the Harlem Stride tradition.

Waller penned some real jazz classics in this style, such as Honeysuckle Rose and Ain’t Misbehavin’. He also composed what is believed to be the first ever jazz waltz, The Jitterbug Waltz in 1938, a fact acknowledged by Chick Corea in his tribute to Waller on his Past, Present Futures Trio album of 2001.

George Shearing

The wonderful London pianist George Shearing emigrated to the USA aged 28 and became an American citizen in 1956. It did not take him long to establish the ‘Shearing Sound’ – the block chord, ‘locked-hands’ technique he developed in his quintet, with vibes doubling the right hand melody, and guitar his left hand the octave below. This technique wasn’t actually new (it was pioneered by the pianist/organist Milt Buckner) but it was Shearing who gave the style its most eloquent and definitive voice. Lullaby of Birdland quickly became Shearing’s signature tune.

Thelonius Monk

Thelonius Monk’s blunt, concise, idiosyncratic piano style was the antithesis of Tatum’s florid brilliance. Monk’s oblique, angular compositions with their pungent dissonances, off-beat rhythms and dramatic use of space and silence, have greatly enriched the canon of jazz. 'Round Midnight, one of his most haunting and popular tunes, was written very early in his career. It was first recorded by the Cootie Williams Orchestra in 1944.

Bud Powell

Powell never received the public recognition that his massive talent deserved, for he was without doubt one of the most important pianists in the whole history of jazz. This is what Herbie Hancock has to say about him: “He was the foundation out of which stemmed the whole edifice of modern jazz piano. Every jazz pianist since Bud either came through him or is deliberately attempting to get away from playing like him”. As well as being the undisputed king of the bebop piano players, Powell was also a composer of distinction, Bouncing with Bud being one of his most popular pieces.

Bill Evans

Bill Evans was a hugely influential modern jazz pianist. His use of impressionistic harmony, his unique reinterpretations of the Great American Songbook and the core jazz repertoire, plus his experiments with rhythmic displacement and polyrhythm, have influenced many great pianists including Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett. One of Evans’ greatest achievements was the way in which he revolutionised the art of the piano trio. The Evans trio was not a pianist accompanied by a bassist and drummer: it was an empathetic, conversational, highly organic unit, with each member contributing in equal measure to the greater artistic whole. Evans was also a fine composer, Waltz for Debby being his most famous piece.

Scott Joplin

Some people might ask what a ragtime composer like Scott Joplin is doing in a project dedicated to jazz piano legends. Though ragtime might not be “jazz” in its strictest sense, the form did have an important bearing on the future development of the genre. The distinguished jazz critic John Fordham is absolutely right when he says: “Joplin laid the foundation stone for a craze, and one which later came to be mutated in part, but a vital part, of what came to be called “jazz”. Maple Leaf Rag, written in 1897, remains one of the most famous ragtime pieces of all time.

Horace Silver

Horace Silver was one of the main pioneers of a school of jazz known as hard bop, a potent amalgamation of rhythm and blues, gospel, soul and bebop. Silver’s funky, bluesy, riffy approach to the keyboard has influenced a whole array of pianists from Bobby Timmons to Ramsey Lewis and Herbie Hancock. Many of his catchy tunes have become immortal jazz classics, such as the much-loved Song for my Father. I would like to dedicate this track to my own father, also Horace, who introduced me to the joys of jazz at such an early age and who, along with my mother, continues to support me in my musical endeavours.

Keith Jarrett

Keith Jarrett is one of the world’s greatest living pianists and improvisers, and one of the most important musicians of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. A truly inspirational figure, the sheer breadth of his music-making is astounding: he is equally at home in the area of abstract, free-wheeling improvisation as he is in re-interpreting jazz standards and the Great American Songbook. He continues to perform with his long-standing trio featuring Gary Peacock and Jack de Johnette, building on the achievements of the late great Bill Evans. Much of his work is very complex and challenging. However, he also has the gift of being extremely simple, a perfect case in point being his lovely ‘My Song’ from the 1978 album of the same name.

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington was a musical colossus. He was one of the greatest composers, arrangers and bandleaders of the twentieth century as well as being “up there” with the best as a piano player. Unbelievably prolific, his compositions range from tiny little masterpieces to complex extended works. The sublime “The Single Petal of a Rose” forms part of the 6-sectioned ”The Queen’s Suite” written for Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1959 following a visit to the British Isles. Ellington recorded one copy and sent it to the Queen, never intending it to be put out commercially. It was eventually released after Ellington’s death as part of The Ellington Suites on Pablo. The two other works which make up this collection – The Goutelas Suite and The Uwis Suite were similarly composed for specific events rather than as commercial releases.

Chick Corea

A masterful improviser and composer, equally at home in acoustic and electronic settings, Chick Corea can move with perfect ease from abstract music to bebop, from children’s songs to straight-ahead jazz, from world/fusion to classical. He has always had a particular love for Latin music – not surprising considering his Latin roots – and has written many a fine composition in this style, Spain, La Fiesta and Armando’s Rhumba being perfect examples of the genre. Armando’s Rhumba, dedicated to his father, comes from one of Corea’s most popular albums, My Spanish Heart, of 1976.

McCoy Tyner

McCoy Tyner is a veritable dynamo at the keys. A fiery, passionate player, his coruscating sheets of sound, his harmonic boldness and his volcanically percussive left hand mark him out as one of the most distinctive voices in modern piano jazz. Though much of his music is restless, even ferocious, he is also capable of great tenderness and lyricism – Search for Peace for example. He said of the tune: “I chose this title because the song has a tranquil feeling, tranquil and personal. It’s very difficult to verbalize about music; but insofar as I can verbalize about this piece, it has to do with a man’s submission to God, with the giving over of the self to the universe”.

Herbie Hancock

Like his contemporaries Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea, the equally eclectic Herbie Hancock continues to push at the musical envelope. Boppy jazz, rock, pop, funk, fusion, soul and abstract are all part of the Hancock experience. His ever popular Watermelon Man appeared on his very first solo album “Taking Off” for Blue Note in 1962. This was to provide Mongo Santamaria with a number 10 hit in the pop charts a year later.