What do Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Keith Jarrett have in common?
Besides being the 3 most popular and influential jazz pianists in the world, they have something very specific in common. They all got started and became famous in the same way:
1. They gained prominence by playing with Miles Davis.
2. After their time with Miles, they catapulted to huge fame by playing music with straight 8th notes.
Think about this for a moment: These are the most famous jazz pianists in the world today, and their breakthrough moment came about by playing music with straight (ie: non-jazzy) 8th notes.
Ironic, isn’t it?
It makes historical sense, though. Herbie, Chick, and Keith all came of age and played in Miles Davis’ groups during the mid-60s to the early 70s. (Herbie was first, then Chick, and finally Keith.) This was right at the time when the general listening public became more interested in rock and straight-8th pop styles than with the “swing” 8th notes of earlier jazz. Miles led the charge and highly influenced the sidemen who worked with him, including these three pianists. After they left Miles’ group, each pianist in turn connected with the public with “straight 8th-note” music.
Herbie studied the music of funk artists like Sly and The Family Stone and came up Chameleon.
Chick went back to the Latin-style music he had played as a teenager and came up with Spain.
Keith improvised gospel vamps and pop-like ballads during his solo piano concerts.
Ironically, after each of them became “iconic,” their fans accepted just about anything they did, including straight-ahead jazz. Ironic!
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