For more thirty years, John Fordham has been favoring the British public with his finely-honed critiques and observations about jazz. Most of his work has appeared in the newspaper The Guardian, but he is also the author of an entertaining and informative history of jazz. Fordham is a full-range listener with good ears and a writer with an open mind, as interesting on The Bad Plus as he is on Humphrey Lyttleton.
In a flow of 881 words, Fordham’s most recent column manages to encapsulate the development of jazz piano. It begins…
The iconography of jazz usually features smoky images of coolly wasted-looking individuals in natty hats blowing saxophones. But if saxes and trumpets have seemed like the quintessential jazz instruments, it’s the piano that has been absolutely central to the development of the music.
…and includes this paragraph on two seminal pianists:
The tormented, fitfully visionary pianist Bud Powell participated in the inception of bebop as a teenager, and his approach refined the Earl Hines “trumpet” style to a dazzling melodic display similar to bop hero Charlie Parker’s sax lines. A very different founding-figure of bebop, the former gospel-pianist Thelonious Monk, came from a more eccentric angle. Monk liked erratic silences as much as sounds, struck frequently dissonant chords with a drumlike whack, and composed some of the most enduringly personal themes in the jazz repertoire.
To read the whole thing, go here. If Fordham is a bit lenient in his assessments of some UK musicians, that tolerance is more than offset by his overall perspective on the music. For a selection of his Guardian blog entries, click here.