This year I was asked to give a solo piano performance at the Reykjavik Jazz Festival with rather short notice. I had never given a solo concert before besides the occasional cocktail gig, and so to me it was a welcomed challenge.
In search of inspiration I listened to three pianists playing solo. All of them have a very personal approach. Bill Evans, not concerned with walking bass or playing stride says it all with his beautiful chords; Django Bates walks, strides and paints with nuttiness on Autumn Fires (And Green Shoots); and Keith Jarrett gets these incredible grooves happening on the Sun Bear Concerts. Well, as Jarrett says on Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland, after playing so much with a rhythm section the left hand is almost like an appendage for jazz pianists.
Having this performance coming up (and in the company of 4 other fine Icelandic jazz pianists, I might add: Agnar Már Magnússon, Árni Heiðar Karlsson, Eythor Gunnarsson and Davið Þór Jónsson) was a good kick in the you-know-what to start giving that left hand some T.L.C.
It would probably have been easier to play a standard, the standard way, but I wanted to present a personal approach so I played two tunes of mine and one interpretation of a folk song. Now I am fascinated by the art of playing solo piano and plan to develop it more. Here's a video of 'A Garden Someday' from that performance:
Other solo piano albums that I love include Hank by Hank Jones, so elegant and beautifully voiced. It is also available as a Japanease import titled Satin Doll. When I met Hank in New York he told me he thought that was his best solo recording and it is awesome. The Köln Concert and the Solo Concerts by Keith Jarrett are incredible. The Art Tatum box set is also incredible. I used to never like to listen to Tatum. I thought of him as technically unreachable, but now I find his harmonic approach inspiring. I would really like to hear Bobo Stenson play solo. Somehow I have a feeling that he wouldn't walk bass or play stride.