Evening Standard/Hulton Archive
Fats Waller seemed to pack 10 lifetimes of fun into his 39 years on the planet.
If ragtime piano can be seen as the starting point in the evolution of jazz piano, then the next step in that evolutionary process wasn't a step all; it was a "stride." Around 1920, the popularity of ragtime piano began to wane, as blues music became the new fad. In response to this — while also incorporating some of the influence of Tin Pan Alley — several pianists, primarily in Harlem, began to experiment with a blending of styles. The result was stride piano.
Stride pianists took the basic left-hand "oompah" rhythm of ragtime, but played it with more swing and complexity, while the right hand played the melody and the ever-increasing improvisations upon it. As the left-hand bass-playing became more complex and contrapuntal, it required a broader use of the bottom end of the piano, so the pianist's left hand had to literally "stride" greater distances up and down the keyboard — often at great speed.
In this list, we'll hear from some of the great stride players. Of course, in a five-song list, we can't include all the greats, though we do manage to squeeze six pianists into five songs. So if you're a stride fan, be sure to leave a comment about some of your favorites so that we can all dig a little deeper into this delightful music.