This style of piano jazz appeared towards the end of 1910's when jazz was expanding in Harlem. Richer than ragtime before, stride piano offered more freedom with sounds, more flexibility in the game and came mainly under improvisation. It is a self-sufficient style of game because it fills all the sound space and it is also very visual. As a real "rythm box", the left hand alternates with flexibility between basses and agreements, while the right hand weaves a series of improvisations and variations on the empty space of the keyboard.
James P. Johnson at the piano
Eubie Blake (1883 - 1983)
Eubie Blake - Charleston Rag ("Sounds Of Africa", 1921)
Luckey Roberts and Eubie Blake were the first pianists to practice , but James P. Johnson, "Father of Stride Piano" created the foundations of this music, with black sonority and deeply steeped in the blues. Piano stride played on essential part at the beginnings of jazz. It has seen a generation of pianists who left their prints in jazz history : Fats Waller, Willie "The Lion" Smith and Donald Lambert.
Later on, pianists have kept the Stride piano alive and have made it evolved. Joe Turner was the last great player when he died in 1990. Cliff Jackson was contemporary with Fats Waller, was a great pianist and recorded several masterpieces in the middle 40's. As for Teddy Wilson, his game was modern but clearly borrowed to classical Stride piano as well as Art Tatum.
Cliff Jackson (1902 - 1970)
(1917 - 2000)
Cliff Jackson - You Took Advantage Of Me (1945)
Pat Flowers is another Stride pianist that everybody has forgotten now : he was Waller's pupil and when his teacher died he became the director of the famous orchestra « Fats Waller & His Rhythm ». Though less charismatic than Fats Waller, he knew how to keep alive his teacher's style with his very personal but perfect technique.
Other well-known pianists have played Stride piano more recently : Ralph Sutton, Don Ewell, Dick Wellstood.
Today, the very gifted Dick Hyman perpetuates this style in the United States. In France, we have the great opportunity to listen to Louis Mazetier, Olivier Lancelot, and Philippe Souplet who play in bars and jazz-clubs in Paris.
Louis Mazetier - High Society
...There are still many other artists to discover who will bring the amateurs of Stride piano instants of pure pleasure