10 Essential Jazz Musicians
Jazz music is arguably one of the most fascinating genres in the entire spectrum of music. Whether it’s the improvisational tone, innovative pushing boundary, or the history behind it, jazz is remarkable for countless reasons that most music genres don’t have.
Despite the innovative landmark of jazz music as a whole, many standard music listeners aren’t too familiar with the genre. Considering jazz has always been just outside of the mainstream appeal, it makes sense why so many people aren’t heavily invested in the genre.
Regardless of this, there are a ton of extraordinary jazz musicians that catapulted the genre forward. For those interested in diving into the genre for the first time, or want to know more about the history of jazz, let’s take a look at ten essential jazz musicians. Keep in mind; there are numerous other jazz musicians that could’ve made this list; these are just some of my favorites.
1. John Coltrane
A pioneer of modes and an otherworldly saxophonist, John Coltrane helped cultivate the genre of free jazz. After his death in 1967, it’s challenging to find another jazz musician who has as big of an influence as Coltrane.
2. Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan was an incredible trumpeter and composer who is regarded by many as one of the principal hard bop musicians. Morgan unfortunately passed away in 1972.
3. Hank Mobley
Hank Mobley was an innovator in the hard bop and soul-jazz spectrum of jazz, by being a tenor saxophonist and an incredible composer. Since passing in 1986, Mobley will forever be regarded for his unique tenor sax delivery and compositions in the genre.
4. Art Blakey
Drumming-wise, it doesn’t get much better than Art Blakey. Primarily drumming for Fletcher Henderson and Billy Eckstine, Blakey made a name for himself drumming for various prominent big band artists. Blakey passed in 1990 and will forever be looked back as one of the forefront drummers of jazz.
5. Duke Ellington
With one of the longest spanning careers in jazz, Duke Ellington is regarded by many as the pioneer of early American jazz composition and orchestra. Ellington passed in 1974, but his compositions and ability to perfect the piano will live on forever.
6. Gregory Porter
Although Gregory Porter came significantly after most of the artists on this list, not many jazz singers have achieved as much as Porter has. Being born in 1971, Porter won a Grammy in 2014 and 2017 for Best Jazz Vocal Album.
7. Sarah Vaughan
Being one of the early women pioneers of jazz and singing in general, Sarah Vaughan is an exceptional musician. Vaughan was awarded the Jazz Masters Award in 1989, one year before she passed.
8. Miles Davis
As far as big names in the jazz world go, practically everyone has heard of Miles Davis, and rightfully so. Being a trumpeter and one of the best musical composers ever to exist, everyone in the jazz world is influenced by Davis one way or another. After his passing in 1991, many look back on his remarkable list of music he crafted over several decades.
9. Louis Armstrong
Similar to Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong is one of the most prominent figures in jazz history. Being a trumpeter, composer, and vocalist, not many artists are as versatile as Armstrong was. Although he died in 1971, his lengthy career still lives on today.
10. Ella Fitzgerald
Regarded as the queen of jazz, Ella Fitzgerald was an extraordinary jazz singer throughout the 20th century. After passing in 1996, many note Fitzgerald for her phrasing, intonation, and improvisational ability.
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