Horace Parlan, Jazz Pianist Who Turned Disability To His Advantage

With Dizzy Gillespie and Cliff Jordan in Köln (1986)–Watch on YouTube

Horace Parlan was a hard bop jazz pianist, who initially became known through his work with Charles Mingus. As a child, Parlan contracted polio, and he lost the use of the fourth and fifth fingers on his right hand as a result. He compensated by using his thumb, index and middle fingers to complete chords from his left hand. For solos, he did short melodic runs with his right that led into percussive chords.

Hard bop is jazz influenced by rhythm and blues. Some consider it a reaction to the laid-back LA “cool jazz” and a reassertion of the African-American roots of jazz. Along with Mingus, Art Blakely and Miles Davis, Parlan contributed to this style through recordings he did for Blue Note in the 60s.

“C-Jam Blues” on Spotify