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Top Five Funniest People in Jazz

Michael Ricci By

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Despite that serious expression you often see on a jazz musician's face, the truth is that laughter gets him through the day.

The late, great pianist Horace Silver knew it. If you didn't see it in his impish smile, you could hear it in his music. Especially in his last studio album, which knowingly proclaimed Jazz Has A Sense of Humor (GRP, 1999).

We've gotten to know lots of musicians over the years, and though we marvel at their exceptional skill and talent, we equally appreciate their humor. Ranging from outlandish, to dry, to prickly, to self-effacing, to flat-out howling mad and stand-up-worthy, jazz musicians are a rare breed who balance serious art while keeping it light. Chick Corea can wow you with his prodigious playing one minute and have you in stitches the next.

Jazz musicians work at odd hours in dimly lit clubs, repeatedly traveling the world while meeting and entertaining people from every conceivable walk of life. Not surprisingly, their broad lifestyle is the wellspring for broad wit.

We love jazz musicians for their dedication to their craft and their integrity, and because many make us laugh.

The Desmond Awards (named after jazz's legendary raconteur, Paul Desmond) pays tribute to a handful of spirited gents who are wired for laughter, on stage and off.

Drumroll, please...

Bill Anschell

In case you haven't noticed, Seattle-based pianist Bill Anschell bears an uncanny resemblance to Seattle-based jazz self-help guru, Mr. P.C.. Bill also penned the inspired Careers in Jazz article, which when we last checked, was read over 237,992 times.

Stefano Bollani

Born with jazz hands and raised on Pink Panther movies, Stefano Bollani won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Guido in Life Is Beautiful. The maestro even sells his own brand of women's hip hugger underwear.

Bill Carrothers

Hailing from Mass City, MI, Bill Carrothers shovels snow off his roof and rides a Polaris to the local 7-Eleven for a Big Gulp. He's a renaissance man, a war historian and is widely considered the funniest man in Avignon.

John Pizzarelli

John Pizzarelli spins hilarious yarns about his life with (father) Bucky and he continually updates Joe Cosgriff's Garden State anthem, "I Like Jersey Best." John won jazz's coveted "Most Affable Italian-American Seven-String Guitarist" award in 2013, previously held by Jimmy Bruno.

Matt Wilson

The youngest of ten children, Matt Wilson took up the drums just to be heard around the dinner table. His father, a part-time vaudeville-trained comedian, brought his son to his stand-up gigs for his "ba-dum ching." Matt's mischievous, a snappy dresser, and has a holiday band named Christmas Tree-O.


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