THE TOP 50
Given that Geddy Lee is actually a bass player, his place in the Top 20 is a testament to his musical dexterity. Lee didn’t begin using synthesisers until Rush’s fifth album, 1977’s A Farewell To Kings, after which time he began using synthesisers and bass pedals far more often on stage. The band’s use of keyboards hit its height in the 80s with albums such as Signals, Power Windows and Hold Your Fire, and although its use was toned down on later albums, Lee’s expertise with the instrument was always more than evident on stage.
You say: “Playing bass, singing and playing keyboards all at the same time… It’s easy to do one thing at a time but to do it all, and so proficiently, that’s quite something.”
– Karen DuBlanc
Mexican keyboard wizard Diego Tejeida joined young British prog rockers Haken in 2008, replacing Peter Jones a year after the band formed. He’s been an integral part of their sound ever since, helping them rise up through the prog rock ranks over the years. Haken’s music has always lent heavily on their prodigious talent, and Tejeida’s expertise around his banks of keyboards is one reason for his high showing in this poll, made more impressive given Haken’s hard-hitting and often uncompromising sound.
You say: “Hard to distinguish yourself in a prog metal band, and he does just fine.” – Kraig Haviland
Many will know Holzman as the keyboard player in Steven Wilson’s solo band, but he was born into rock royalty. His father is Jac Holzman, the founder of Elektra Records, and the man who signed The Doors and (for the US only) Queen. Hired by Miles Davis to play on 1986’s Tutu album, Adam stayed with Davis for four years. Alongside Wilson, with whom he’s played since 2013’s The Raven That Refused To Sing, he’s also performed with Ray Wilson, Robben Ford, Ray Manzarek, Lenny White and more.
You say: “For me, Holzman is a revelation in terms of his solo work, especially with Steven Wilson. He has a genuine voice and his musical skills seem endless. His album Truth Decay was in my Top 5 for the past 12 months.” – Emma Leach
One wonders how many times Stewart has had to say, “Not that one!” over recent years. But a man with his pedigree really shouldn’t need to. The organist in Uriel, where he played alongside Mont Campbell and Steve Hillage, he was then in Egg, Hatfield And The North, National Health and Bruford. He’s just released a new studio album, Star Clocks, with partner Barbara Gaskin, with whom he got to No.1 in the UK singles chart with their remake of It’s My Party in 1981.
You say: “He had a tremendous range of styles and great technique, utilised with such good taste and inventiveness that I wonder why he isn’t more known. His combination of jazz and rock with the vocabulary of a trained classical musician is awe-inspiring and exceptional.” – Geir Hasnes
Given that Kolyadin only burst onto the prog scene about five years ago with Marjana Semkina when iamthemorning first rose to prominence, his strong showing here is remarkable: the highest placed musician from the modern prog scene. Kolyadin’s orchestrations and piano playing are superb, as anyone who’s listened to either iamthemorning or his self-titled solo album will be aware.
You say: “The most exciting young pianist and keyboardist in the genre right now. The only reason he isn’t higher in the ranking is because he hasn’t reached his full potential yet, which is a terrifying thought because he’s already unbelievably good.”
– Austin Kokel
Another giant of the jazz fusion world, there are those who say that with Return To Forever and albums such as 1976’s Romantic Warrior, Corea and his band (at that time Al Di Meola, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White) came closest to forging fusion and prog. Like many fusion giants, Corea learned his trade playing with Miles Davis and has worked with nearly all the major jazz players over the past 30 years. He celebrated his 75th birthday in 2016 by performing with over 20 different bands at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York.
You say: “Corea’s music with Return To Forever was all about pace – about making landscapes relentlessly slide at lightning-fast speed, producing a feeling of excitation and abyss at the same time.” – Laurent de Sutter
Jobson learned piano aged seven and violin aged eight. Too young to study at the Royal Academy, he played for the band Fat Grapple instead. When they supported Curved Air, it didn’t take long for him to move across, aged 17, replacing Darryl Way. Since then Jobson has played with many prog rock greats: Roxy Music, Frank Zappa, UK, Jethro Tull and Yes. He’s also run a solo career that began with 1983’s The Green Album. He worked with former UK member John Wetton for years, and more recently toured with Marc Bonilla in tribute to the late Keith Emerson.
You say: “Roxy Music and its offshoots, Zappa, UK and even a brief uncredited stint in Yes. The Maestro is a true synthesiser genius and can play an electric violin second in joy only to Jean-Luc Ponty! If he could have stayed with one group for his career he would not be a dark horse in this list.”
– Chris Beckwith