James P. Johnson

February 01, 1894 – November 17, 1955

Modern Period

Born in United States

James Johnson was a self-taught pianist who became one of the most important pianists in the early days of recording music. A key figure in the evolution from ragtime to jazz, Johnson was a major influence on Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum and Fats Waller. He pioneered the Stride piano style in which the right hand plays the melody and the left hand alternates between playing a bass note and a chord.

Johnson composed many hit songs including “The Charleston,” the unofficial song of the Roaring 20s. In the 1930s, Johnson was considered the King of New York jazz pianists.