i've only listened to the webstreaming samples, but www.cocktailpiano.com might be a start.
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what's the difference between solo jazz piano and solo cocktail piano?
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none neccesarily.  i tell club owners i am a solo jazz pianist.
they hire me to play solo jazz piano.  it is in my contract that i will play solo jazz piano.  i have studied solo jazz piano my entire pianistic life.  but the freakin audience still comes up to me and requests "piano man" just like they do any other pianist even though  
they walked by a huge billboard on the way in that says  mike critch
solo jazz pianist      and even though i am playing giant steps when they are walking up to the piano.  even though my name is advertised in the paper 7 days a week as a jazz pianist.  even though i am careful not to let my eyes meet there eyes as they aproach the piano because i know damn well what is coming.  but they do it.  i am laying down a walking bass line on giant steps at this point right up to the tempo that tests my abilities to the maximum and just barely but succesfully keeping a flowing improvisation in the right hand over it....    only to have the wet drunken request for "piano man" spewed in my ear.  so i stop on a freakin dime.  been here too many times before.  i dont even fight it anymore.
i play "piano man"
am i a coctail pianist or a solo jazz pianist????
i do not know the answer,  you tell me.
scot's musing sounds like a great lead-in to a joke.

unfortunately i don't have a snazzy one-liner punch line.


i guess the difference would be that cocktail piano is meant to be background mood music that the audience talks over.

solo jazz piano would be jazz that the audience actually listens to.

but the audience is just as capable of talking over jazz piano, and conversely listening intently to pop pablum.


this probably goes back to the distinction between artist vs entertainer.

cocktail piano includes a certain number of jazz songs (usually done in a schmalzy manner) and tons of solo piano pop. and is often mere ambience. someone who includes a muzak version of "satin doll" in their  repertoire is not necessarily a jazz pianist.

as an entertainer, i try to get the audience to notice what's going on up on stage and get some appreciation for it.  

however, as a cocktail pianist, the job is to lay down background music (which is not my definition of "entertaining").

so you could say that a cocktail pianist is generally neither an entertainer nor an artist - rather a function.

as with any job, you do what the boss calls for. whether the boss be the club owner, or the tipping customers.

when i go to hear a solo musician or small combo playing in a subdued club, i actually appreciate the fact that i can sit and talk while the music goes on in the background. and if i'm playing that kind of place, i don't mind that i'm fulfilling the function that is expected of me.

as a professional musician, you have to be prepared for anything. and be prepared to swallow your artistic pride in order to make a buck.

almost everybody else who works any kind of "straight" job has to subjugate their ego to perform the job at hand. why should i be any different?


maybe this example will serve:

last thursday we hired one of the best guitarists in the area to be in the house band at the weekly thursday night jam.

at the end of the night, he said to me "man, i didn't even get my rocks off once tonight". i told him "that's because you're getting paid for that".

that alpha high, or "in the zone" experience happens every once in a while, and that's what we live for. but it doesn't happen all the time, and some nights it never happens at all.

anyway, you got your money and if you can't live it the realities of this business, you're in the wrong business.

7
mike,

i'll try to tell you what you are.  you are a member of the human race. an animal who instead of crouching in the grass on an african plain tring to spear a herbivore in order to feed his family has advanced to where he can sit in a more or else comfortable bar and play cocktail music for his sustenance; and who instead of spending all his time searching for food and shelter from the elements and predators has the time to develop his talents and learn to play solo jazz piano and enjoy the sublime pleasure of artistic creation  and the respect of his peers.

and a damn lucky animal at that.

joe
i have a friend who is an ex-plumber.  he was making huge dough year ago but got injuredon a job.  so instead of plumbing all day and playing all night, he just plays.  he's not making near what he was before.  

i tell you he is the happiest  keyboard player i've ever seen. he can play the same crappy tunes night after night and his head is always rocking from side to side with a big smile on his face.

i asked him once, how he stays so happy...he said, and i quote:
"i've stood three feet deep inother people's shit...ain't nobody can hurt me daddy"
oops, i just realised that cocktailpiano.com is jim haskins, who you already mentioned.
dave mckenna, my favorite solo jazz pianist of all time, insists he is not a jazz pianist. he says he is a saloon player.  the copley plaza lounge in boston is hardly a saloon but it is a coctail gig and he held that gig for 15 years.  its the sort of gig where people go into have a drink and talk.  i was always amazed that when i was living in other parts of the country, i could come out of logan airport in boston, and on my way to wherever i was going make a sligt detour, stop at the copley plaza and walk in and for no charge listen to dave mckenna play.
one of the greatest pianists that has ever lived and no one ever clapped, he would play tune after tune without stoping and at the end of the stand up and walk off never talking necessarily to anyone.
   so i am not completely complaining.  there is some question as to whether one of the greatest solo jazz pianists of all time was indeed a solo jazz pianist or a coctail piano player.  and if you asked him
he would insist he is a saloon player.
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