Jazz has been one of the most influential and well respected forms of music in American history. It has shaped the entire music industry in ways that can’t be expressed in a short article. Just about everywhere you turn today you’ll be listening to music that was, in its roots, influenced by jazz.
There are some jazz musicians who simply stand apart from the crowd. While there will certainly be many who could argue other musicians should be on this list, take a look at the 10 most influential jazz musicians.
You might have heard the name, but maybe you didn’t know much about him. His dissonant harmonies defined his pianist and composing career. Thelonious was known for dressing in hip styles that were ahead of his time and songs like ‘Blue Monk,’ ‘Straight, No Chaser,’ and “I Mean You’ make him one of the best.
Art was a band leader and drummer who took the traditional way drums were played and turned it on its head. He incorporated swing, blues, and funk, among other styles into his style that still resonates to this day.
One of the most famous trumpet players in history, Dizzy was known most for his chipmunk cheeks when he was pumping out some incredible brass sounds. He helped develop bepop and modern jazz. He was highly influential to many other greats, including Miles Davis and Fats Navarro.
Arguably one of the best popular singers of the 20th century, Billie Holiday didn’t write many of her own songs, but she sang with a deep well of emotions that rang through each song, and each person who had the pleasure of hearing her.
When you talk about ‘cool,’ you’re talking about John Coltrane. He was at the forefront of what was known as hard bop. He was a saxophone virtuoso and composer who could play with unmatched intensity.
Miles was one of the most influential jazz musicians of the 20th century and was right there in the midst of so many revolutionary changes in music, including the emergency of bebop, cool jazz, and free jazz, among others.
You can’t talk about jazz without mentioning Charlie Parker. He was simply known as ‘Bird’ in his day and as a saxophone player, was a pioneer. He offered a clean tone and incredible improvisational abilities that helped influence many of his peers, and many more today.
This incredibly popular pianist, composer, and big band leader was so important as a band leader during his day. He is one of the true pioneers of jazz, but he also took other styles to new heights, such as blues, classical, and gospel.
The sounds of Goodmans’ Big Band was hard to match. He was known as the King of Swing and was the leader of one of the most popular bands of the early 20th century. His performance at Carnegie Hall in 1938 is considered one of the most important as it highlighted jazz’s ascension to acceptance in modern culture.
No top 10 jazz list would ever be complete without Louis Armstrong. Known as Satchmo or Pops during his prime, he is recognized as one of the greatest musicians of all time and was instrumental in the creation of modern jazz.
Written by G. T. Hedlund