i am here to share ideas about how to be a band pianist. there is little information anywhere about how to provide a satisfactory accompaniment in a traditional jazz band. i play more swing/mainstream jazz piano, but i have also been performing occasionally as pianist in traditional jazz bands for some years, and i must say that it tricky finding things that fit and don't sound too corny or too busy. my main observation (and this applies to any style of jazz) is that what the pianist must play depends largely on the instrumentation of the band and the way each other musician plays. so pianists must be chameleons!

if there is no banjo or guitar in a band, then maybe the pianist is free to play some of the beat in the middle of the piano, and in some cases this is essential. i even see pianists doing this when there is a banjo/guitar. personally, i prefer that the pianist avoids marking the beat if there is a banjo doing that. but a piano isn't a banjo, so even in the absence of a banjo (but with bass/tuba playing mainly beats 1 and 3) how should a pianist play the beat? if you use both hands to play the beat (five or more notes per chord) then the beat gets muddy and even jangly.

a jazz banjo usually plays all the beats using chords which employ three or four notes/strings at a time. sometimes two of these strings even play the same note in octaves, and, when we hear a banjo, we mainly hear his/her top string. if follows that a pianist doesn't neeed to do much to mark the beat like a banjo - though the banjo will always do it more incisively. just adding notes to compensate for lack of incisiveness does not seem to be the answer. indeed, the reverse seem to be true. i'm saying that sometimes less is more. i think that if a pianist is left to mark the beat in a trad band he should make the chords very thin - at least some of the time, if not all the time. you can even mark the beat with one note.

sometimes i like to play all four beats on two notes with my left hand. in "avalon" i might just start with the major second of bb,c notes (c7 chord. i change chords, playing mainly two notes at a time on my lh and marking the beat very firmly without lifting my fingers much - thus reducing stress and getting a less corny sound. meanwhile, my right hand plays some pretty things (longer notes or cascading effects) above the trumpet melody. but i must be simple and discrete, or the clarinet might get upset. if there is no trombone, i might spend a while playing a cello line just below middle c on lh, with my right hand playing the beat slightly higher. but i still find it hard to vary things enough so that it doesn't all get too corny. sometimes i use lh stride, but this can get in the way of the bass player. sometimes i use a sort of pseudo-stride where my bass notes are almost non existent, or are played with inversions in the cello range.

but knowing exactly what to do (and when) is not easy. please share you thoughts with me on this.
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i was about to suggest that you look for answers to some of your questions in the comping section but it looks like it has been vandalised ?
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