I was going to write about some of the younger players I like, but then erased what I wrote because I didn’t feel comfortable singling people out – because that means I would have to leave off others, and I don’t want to make those kinds of assertions about players currently out there trying to do good. The only thing I will say about the younger players is that I like everyone who’s sincere in what they’re doing.
These are some of my personal favorites/influences among the piano legends (in no particular order):
Willie the Lion Smith
Nat King Cole
James P. Johnson
Of course, there’s lots of others I think are amazing, but I tried to keep the list narrowed down to players who particularly resonate with me.