Of course, there’s no way to come up with a definitive list of the best artists who appear whenever we talk about those players who’ve shaped the development of the in a big way.of all time. There are, though, a selection of famous
For this article, we’ve put together a pretty comprehensive round up of 40legends which, we hope, will give you a great starting point to discover more about this amazing style of …
The musicians on this list are not just some of the most important players in this genre; they’ve transcended their to become icons.
We start with Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong – the latter considered by many casual fans to be the ‘founder’ of itself – and go through to musicians (like Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett) whose influence was felt well into the 21st Century.
Some, like Charlie Parker or Django Reinhardt, are almost single-handedly credited with the arrival of a completely new type of .
Others, such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane, have been catalysts in the evolution of the , from one type of to another.
So whilst every or fan reading this will have their own personal take on the subject, we hope you’ll agree that this list represents hours of inspirational and some of the best players in history…
Of course, everyone will have their own opinion, but if you’re looking for a specific top 10 of all time, here’s ours:
- Miles Davis
- Louis Armstrong
- John Coltrane
- Charles Mingus
- Thelonious Monk
- Ella Fitzgerald
- Charlie Parker
- Duke Ellington
- Chet Baker
- Ornette Coleman
Best known as the leader of his long-running Duke Ellington Orchestra, Ellington is the most recorded, and arguably greatest, in history, with tunes like Satin Doll , Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, Mood Indigo, and hundreds of other standards to his name.
However, although he doesn’t offer the same kind obvious instrumental pyrotechnics of someone like Art Tatum, he was also a highly important whose percussive, minimal playing influenced Thelonious Monk and others.
In addition to his dozens of famous Orchestra recordings – Ellington at Newport, The Sacred Concerts, The Far East Suite, etc. – he made a number of great small group recordings, highlighting his folkloric yet surprisingly modern-sounding piano playing.
Quick listening tip: Money Jungle
Placing Ellington in a trio setting with bassist Charles Mingus and drummer Max Roach, Money Jungle is an intriguing, cross-generational meeting of three gigantic personalities, who were all great bandleaders in their own right.
After growing up in extreme poverty in , Louis Armstrong broke down racial barriers and became a hugely famous mainstream celebrity at a time when this was unusual for African Americans.
He was arguably the first major star, and – with his rhythmically sophisticated, operatic style – remains the of all time according to many.
Armstrong helped popularise scat singing, and his gravelly voice was later heard on pop hits like ‘ What a Wonderful World’.
But, at least amongst , he is most remembered for his brilliant trumpet playing; particularly for the 1920s recordings with his Hot 5s and Hot 7s, which helped to change ‘s focus from collective to individual soloists,
The original : check out Louis Armstrong’s Complete Hot Fives and Hot Sevens Recordings
To hear Armstrong’s later work and vocal stylings, try Ella and Louis, with Ella Fitzgerald.
For many, the the quintessential big . in Orchestra, with its vibrato-drenched, deeply swinging sound, is
had played piano with two important early bands (Walter Page’s Blue Devils and Bennie Moten’s orchestra) before forming his own Kansas-based outfit in 1935.
The various iterations of his Lester Young, Freddie Green, drummer Jo Jones and vocalists Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. included future legends like
‘s work in the 1950s utilised charts provided by arrangers like Neal Hefti, Sammy Nestico and Quincy Jones – many of which are still performed by big bands around the world today.
Hawk, or Bean as he was also sometimes nicknamed, is widely regarded as the father of which, remarkably, was not really considered a saxophone until his emergence in the 1920s. instrument
His vibrato-laden lines, most notably heard with Fletcher Henderson’s big , influenced a generation of saxophone players.
A true innovator, he was also present for the birth of , playing on sessions with the likes of Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach and, even later, in more avant garde settings.
Lester Young replaced Coleman Hawkins in Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra in the mid-1930s, causing quite a stir with his style.
The President, or Prez, as he was nicknamed by Billie Holiday, executed his thoughtful linear ideas with a soft, lithe tone that was almost the opposite of Hawkins’.
His joyous saxophone playing can be heard on many early recordings with the fellow , Billie Holiday and Benny Goodman, as well as with his own groups.
The hugely popular tenor man was cited as a primary influence by future Lee Konitz and Zoot Sims, as well as the ‘Cool school’ that came to prominence in the 1950s. legends including Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz,
Art Tatum was blind from infancy and mostly self-taught as a pianist, but he is considered by many to be the ultimate virtuoso in all of jazz.
Possessed of astonishing technique, his playing is characterised by flamboyantly decorated linear improvisation and lightening-pace right hand flights. He was also a harmonic innovator, taking influence from Romantic classical music, intricately reharmonising jazz standards and ultimately influencing the approaches of bebop musicians like Charlie Parker and Bud Powell.
Tatum would lead a Nat King Cole-style trio with Tiny Grimes on guitar and Slam Stewart on bass in his later career, but his best-known recordings are in the solo stride piano and ragtime tradition of James P. Johnson and Fats Waller.
Fact: Art Tatum was famous for being able to drink large quantities of alcohol whilst performing without it having any seemingly adverse affect on the music. It did, however, impact his health and he died in 1956, aged just 47.
Mary Lou Williams
One of the first successful women in Benny Goodman., Mary Lou Williams was playing with Duke Ellington by the time she was 13 years old and went on to record more than a 100 records with players including Jack Teagarden, Tadd Dameron, Dizzy Gillespie, Hank Jones, Earl Hines and
Performing aside, Williams was a mentor to younger musicians, perhaps most notably Thelonious Monk whose playing incorporated her trademark rhythmic juxtaposition.
Fact: Mary Loui Williams is one of only three women to appear on Art Kane’s iconic photograph A Great Day In Harlem. You can find out who the other two were, here.
Before the invention of the amplifier, guitarists largely played an accompanying role within groups, as their solos could not be heard clearly over the rest of the ensemble.
But Django Reinhardt, a Belgian-born Romani-French gypsy, changed all that with his group the Quintette du Hot Club de France, which he led with the violinist Stephane Grapelli.
With an instrumentation that only featured string instruments, the ‘s softer sound allowed Django’s virtuosic acoustic soloing to be heard clearly.
He is considered one of the most influential of all time, despite the fact that he played without the use of the third and fourth fingers on his left hand after they were badly damaged in a caravan fire while he was still a teenager.
The greatest gypsy : check out Django Reinhardt’s Classic Early Recordings in Chronological Order
Most of Django’s output came before the LP, but this compilation includes much of his classic work with Grapelli as well as transatlantic recordings with big name Americans like Coleman Hawkins.
standards make up most of the repertoire, plus a few of Django’s original compositions, including future Gypsy standards ‘ 39′ and ‘Hungaria’.
Billie Holiday’s short and tragic career gave subsequent generations of jazz singers big shoes to fill.
The vocal pioneer made her debut with Benny Goodman aged 18 and her collaborations with titans including Teddy Wilson, Lester Young, and Artie Shaw are milestones in the canon.
Hits in the 1930s paved the way for sustained commercial success in the ’40s and, whilst her health faded throughout the ’50s until her death in 1959, she was still very much in the public eye until the end.
Christian was one of the first performers to embrace the electric guitar during the mid-1930s, popularising it as a instrument and finding national fame with Benny Goodman’s hugely popular outfit, which he joined in 1939.
His soloing style is often described as ‘horn-like’, and his linear playing sounds notably similar in improvisational style to the saxophone playing of Lester Young.
He was involved with the birth of , jamming with Thelonious Monk , Kenny Clarke and Don Byas at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem.
He died in 1942, aged just 25, having contracted tuberculosis, but has influenced virtually every major guitar soloist since.
Quick listening tip: Solo Flight, The Genius of Charlie Christian
Christian barely recorded as a , but this compilation brings together some of his most notable work with Benny Goodman, including some with at the piano, as well as some quintet tracks under Christian’s name.
Initially inspired by the Roy Eldridge, Gillespie developed a new style of playing that was chromatically complex and utilised the trumpet’s high register.
Remembered by many his iconic bent trumpet and inflated cheeks, he also pushed the envelope in fusing with Cuban to create Afro-Cuban , as well as leading an influential big . fans for
“His rhythmic sophistication was unequalled. He was a master of harmony—and fascinated with studying it.” – Marsalis
Monk was instrumental in the birth of , playing in famous jam sessions at Minton’s Playhouse with Charlie Christian and Kenny Clarke in the late 1930s, but his sparse, angular playing is very different to the typical piano sound.
With a unique, almost childlike approach, critics and owners initially dismissed this highly eccentric figure, but he has eventually come to be regarded as a genius who was ahead of his time.
He is the second most recorded in , after Duke Ellington, and his angular tunes have inspired generations of musicians and been the subject of dozens of Monk-themed albums.
Quick listening tip: Thelonious Alone in San Francisco
Monk’s third solo piano includes originals and standards, and demonstrates that, despite his modernism, his playing was deeply connected to the stride pianists of the 1920s and 1930s.
Ella Fitzgerald is a popular figure who transcends , and it’s not hard to see why: her singing is bright, breezy, incredibly swinging, with perfect time and intonation and a real sense of fun.
After first becoming one of the most famous artists of the with the Chick Webb Orchestra – “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” was her first major hit – she became a star herself, recording and performing extensively until the late 1980s and winning 13 Awards along the way.
One of her greatest achievements is her Book series, a selection of albums released between 1956 and 1964 that took detailed looks at individual songwriters and lyricists.
For anyone looking to learn more about this legendary , the biography The First Lady of by Stuart Nicholson comes highly recommended.
Nat King Cole
Nat King Cole is undoubtedly one of the most popular and important entertainers of the 20th century, selling over 50 million records as an African- and .
Hugely influential as a and cultural icon, his legacy continues to inspire countless musicians to this day.
His early trio sessions (usually in the piano--guitar format) influenced future legends such as Oscar Peterson and Ahmad Jamal, whilst his countless hit records as a smooth toned balladeer showcase his enduring taste and class.
You can read more about his later work as a vocalist in our pick of the best male jazz singers in history.
Despite rising to prominence during the era of the 1940s (where he played with both Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie) legendary drummer Art Blakey will always be known for his role in the emergence of Hard Bop and, more specifically, his work with his Messengers .
Recording & touring for more than 30 years, Art Blakey’s artists of the time, including – to name just a few – Freddie Hubbard (Mosaic), Woody Shaw (Child’s Dance), Wayne Shorter (The Big Beat), Lee Morgan & Benny Golson (Moanin’) and Marsalis ( of the Year). Messengers provided a launchpad for many of the most famous
Few people have changed the vocabulary of as drastically as Charlie Parker, and few have proved so influential.
The Kansas-born alto the movement in New York in the mid-1940s and created a new way of playing over chord changes, with chromatic passing notes linking chord tones together, and a fresh rhythmic vocabulary. was at the forefront of
The was also a resolutely intellectual affair, partially in response to the more populist that had dominated American since the 1930s.
Parker’s playing was complex and virtuosic, yet bluesy and fabulously swinging. A number of his compositions – often new melodies written over the chord sequences of existing songs – have become part of the standard repertoire.
Sadly, he struggled with substance addiction, and was just 34 when he died in 1955.
Quick listening tips: Charlie Parker with Strings
Much of Bird’s output came before the LP era, and the live recordings are the place to go to hear him really stretch out. But this , with Parker accompanied by a classical string section and section is essential.
The solo on jazz standard ‘Just Friends’ is one of his most acclaimed.
Dave was an important in the 1950s movement and carved out a niche for himself playing in unusual time signatures.
The Dave Quartet, with Paul Desmond on alto sax, achieved massive fame across America and their 1959 , featuring the iconic track Take Five, became the first Time Out in to sell a million copies.
Fact: Dave was only the 2nd to be featured on the front cover of Time Magazine. Any guesses who the first was?
Not only one of the best bassists and most creative of all time, Charles Mingus also broke ground with his compositions.
Whilst he is mainly remembered for his work as a soloist and , he did play with some of the greats in his early days, including Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington (briefly, until he got fired for fighting…) and Lionel Hampton.
Such is his legacy, the Mingus Big still tours and performs and fans can attend the annual Charles Mingus Festival in New York.
Quick listening tip: Charles Mingus Ah-Um
With a place in the Hall of Fame, this legendary was described by The Penguin Guide to as “an extended tribute to ancestors”.
Listen out for the Gospel-inspired “Better Get It In Your Soul” which features an ecstatic with the bassist driving a seething gospel hard bop feel. It culminates in a solo by tenor Booker Erwin where he plays like a preacher over the clapping of the entire .
With his unconventional playing style and frequent use of octaves, he was able to develop a highly distinctive voice that was always joyous, soulful and swinging.
His infectious brand of hard bop and soul would later undergo a stylistic shift towards a smoother, more populist aesthetic, helping him achieve a level of popular success that very few managed, before his life was sadly cut short at the height of his popularity.
As the pioneering the era, Max Roach laid the foundations of drumming, by formulating a style where the pulse is stated primarily on the ride cymbal, rather than on the hi-hats or drum. drummer of
Roach played and recorded with fellow Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis & Duke Ellington and his discography features some of the great of that era. albums legends such as Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie,
Quick listening tip: “ at Massey Hall” which he co-released with Charles Mingus on their label Debut Records.
Perhaps the best known trombonist of all time, J.J. Johnson was the first one of the earliest musicians on the instrument to play in the style.
Born in 1924, his career started (as with most artists from that era) in the 40’s swinging big bands and orchestras – most notably Benny Carter and .
However, in the mid-40s, he was spurred on by Dizzy Gillespie to embrace the new style.
He immediately decamped to New York to play in small group line ups with some of the best artists of the time, including Max Roach, Sonny Stitt, Bud Powell & Charlie Parker.
The 1950’s saw him make his first Blue Note albums – both as a and with Miles Davis – followed by a highly successful double-trombone project with Kai Windig, for Savoy Records.
The following years saw him capitalise on his status as the go-to . at the Philharmonic show trombonist, appearing around the world with most of the legends, including Clifford Jordan, Nat Adderley, Freddie Hubbard, Tommy Flanagan, Cedar Walton, Elvin Jones, Paul Chambers and Max Roach – as well as stints with the
After a hiatus from playing that started in the 1960s (he moved to Hollywood to write for film and television) he returned to touring and was turning out critically acclaimed recordings well into the mid-90s.
Bud Powell is the archetypal , and was the first person to apply Charlie Parker’s chromaticism-filled improvisational language to the keyboard.
Aged just 10 he was apparently able to imitate stride pianists like Art Tatum and Fats Waller and, later, counted Thelonious Monk as an early mentor figure.
He played on a number of classic recordings with Charlie Parker, including the live albums The Quintet: at Massey Hall and Complete Live at Birdland.
“If I had to choose one single for his artistic integrity, for the incomparable originality of his creation and the grandeur of his work, it would be Bud Powell. He was in a class by himself” – Bill Evans
With a career that spanned 6 decades – from the 1940’s bop with Dizzy Gillespie through to his death in 2002 – he was releasing right up until the end.
Whilst the Ray Brown discography contains some of the best records made, players and fans should also check out his work from the 90s as part of Superbass, alongside Christian McBride and John Clayton.
He also dived into the world of the best books to learn . education with an excellently reviewed book called Ray Brown’s Method: Essential Scales, Patterns and Exercises. You can find that – and several more – in our round up of
One of the most important and influential of all time, Miles Davis was a relentless innovator who was a key player in numerous stylistic developments in .
He featured on classic sessions with Charlie Parker in the mid-1940s, fronted the nine-piece Birth of the Cool , made some of the best hard bop records of the 1950s with his First Great Quintet and pioneered modal on Milestones and Kind of Blue.
His Second Great Quintet experimented with freer forms in the ’60s, while In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew ushered in the -rock and fusion era .
As a instrumentalist, Davis is noted for his use of space and cool use of the trumpet’s mid register, although some of his post-’50s work reveals a wilder side.
While other trumpeters could play higher and faster than Miles, his ability to put together fabulous bands and create classic albums is virtually unmatched.
Quick listening tip: Kind of Blue
Regularly named as the best ever, Kind of Blue features Miles at his cool, considered best.
For a lesser known record set that features him, unusually, in an explosively virtuosic mood, try The Miles Davis / Tadd Dameron Quintet in Paris Festival International de from 1949.
John Coltrane was a relentless practiser who never stopped searching and striving to develop as a .
A relatively late bloomer amongst his fellow saxophone players, he did not make his first as a leader until he was 30 years old. He initially made his mark with mid-’50s hard bop, as a member of Miles Davis’ First Great Quintet and on his own records like Blue Train.
In the mid-1950s and early ’60s his own compositions – ‘Giant Steps’, ‘Countdown’ and ’26-2′ – explored new harmonic territory, with highly challenging harmonic sequences based on key centres moving quickly in thirds.
The legendary was also present for the birth of modal , appearing on Davis’ seminal Kind of Blue.
As a , ‘Trane is noted for his metallic, snaking tone, and his unique ‘sheets of sound’ approach.
His 1960s quartet is considered one of the all-time great free movement and took on a deeply spiritual direction. groups, while his work in his final years embraced the new
Quick listening tip: A Love Supreme
Coltrane’s 1964 masterpiece A Love Supreme features his classic quartet – with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones in the section – on an intense suite of religion-inspired modal .
Rising to prominence in the post-bop era Elvin Jones is, quite rightly, best known for his work on one the most famous albums of all time : John Coltrane’s Love Supreme – along with Jimmy Garrison on and McCoy Tyner on piano.
However, this spell with the saxophone great in the 60s was one of just several periods of to which Elvin Jones contributed on drums…
The late 50s saw him working with Miles Davis ( Blue Moods , Sketches of Spain ) and Sonny Rollins (the excellent Night at the Village Vanguard ).
During the 60s, he also performed on some of the best Wayne Shorter albums ( JuJu , Speak No Evil) , Ornette Coleman’s New York Is Now! and, again, with McCoy Tyner.
Alongside his own releases, which continued up until the late 90s, he performed in later years with more Pharoah Sanders & Michael Brecker. greats including Art Pepper, Ray Brown,
Stan Getz was known as ‘The Sound’ for his famously lyrical tenor saxophone tone and first found fame in the as a member of Woody Herman’s ‘Second Herd’ big in the late 1940s.
As he launched a career as a soloist, his light, Lester Young-inspired sound saw him categorised in the press as a player, although he was equally comfortable playing with musicians like Sonny Stitt and Dizzy Gillespie.
He perhaps best known, however, for his collaboration in the 1960s with Brazilian João Gilberto, which spearheaded the Bossa Nova craze that took the US by storm.
The height of this Bossa Nova success is arguably the Getz/Gilberto version of ‘The Girl from Ipanema’.
Fact: The Girl From Ipanema is thought to be the second most recorded pop in history, after “Yesterday.”
harmony and an introspective sensibility. Bill Evans took the influence of players like Bud Powell and added a flavour of impressionist
He played a notable role in the development of modal the best . of all time, playing on Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, which is considered by many to be
Quick listening tip: Portrait in live with Scott LaFaro & Paul Motian serves as a great introduction to Bill Evans’ playing., recorded
As the poster-boy for West Coast relaxed trumpet playing always sounded completely natural. , Chet Baker’s
His approach – restrained and largely utilising the mid-register – was influenced by Miles Davis’s early work and can be heard on recording with Art Pepper, Stan Getz, Bill Evans, Gerry Mulligan, Charlie Parker and many others.
Chet Baker’s decision to start singing in the mid-1950s divided public opinion but led to massive mainstream popularity (helped in part, no doubt, by his film star good looks!).
His light, delicate voice did not really sound like any other singers of the time, but this treatment of – lyrical swinging vocals, mixed with short melodic trumpet solos – was successful both at the time and still today. standards
Ornette Coleman sent shockwaves through the when his quartet arrived in New York in 1959 with a much-discussed residency at the Five Spot.
His new free stylings saw him abandoning traditional chord sequences and structures with a technique known as a ‘time-no-changes’, while Ornette has also referred, somewhat mysteriously, to the concept of ‘harmolodics’ in his .
Regardless of personal taste, his playing had an impact of the course of The Shape of – is frequently listed as one of To Comethe most influential . albums of all time that few musicians could match and his most famous recording –
Sonny Rollins’s tenor saxophone playing is marked by a supreme swagger and incredible rhythmic confidence.
A famed in-the-moment improviser, he is capable developing a simple melodic motif through a seemingly limitless number of variations without the well of ideas running dry.
The mid-to-late ’50s saw him make a brilliant run of albums under his own name, including Saxophone Colossus, Tenor Madness, The Sound of Sonny and Newk’s Time, among others.
Through the ’60s he explored raucous free -inspired sounds on albums like Our Man in and East Broadway Rundown, while his later work has often taken on a calypso flavour.
Rollins has now retired from playing due to medical issues, but continues to give deeply insightful interviews.
Fact: As aRollins is famously self-critical and, between 1959 and 1961, feeling that his playing didn’t live up to the hype he was receiving in the press, he took a sabbatical from recording and performance, practising for up to 16 hours a day under the Williamsburg Bridge in New York.
Acclaimed soprano saxophone, renowned sage and philosopher, Wayne Shorter has spearheaded innovations for seven decades. and , champion of
He was enlisted in Art Blakey’s Messengers in the late ’50s, seen by many to be a finishing school for future stars, contributing his concise tenor saxophone playing and many compositions.
Wayne Shorter’s work with Weather Report in the ’70s and ’80s spearheaded the and his later career, well into the 21st century, saw a fresh wave of critical successes and fusion movement awards.
Nina Simone was something of a prodigy as a classical , and she combined a classical influence with the sounds of gospel, blues and folk to create a unique musical palette.
Like Nat King Cole, her soulful singing became as popular as her instrumental work, but she continued to accompany herself at the piano, and was noted for her ability to improvise complex Bach-style counterpoint as part of her solos.
She was a prominent Civil Rights activist, recording a number of protest songs from the 1960s onwards, like ‘Mississippi Goddam’.
Quick listening tip: Little Girl Blue
Nina Simone’s debut album (also sometimes titled As Played in an Exclusive Side Street Club) includes her best-known , ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’, with that distinctive descending piano introduction.
It also includes ‘I Loves You Porgy’, which gave Simone her first hit, as well as three instrumental numbers, with Jimmy Bond on and Albert “Tootie” Heath on drums.
Carla Bley was an important figure in the 1960s free movement and, whilst critically acclaimed as a , she has previously described alongside herself as “99% and 1% .”
She has recorded extensively for the iconic ECM label and her compositions have been performed by many fellow greats including George Russell, Jimmy Giuffre, Gary Burton, Charlie Haden, John Scofield and ex-husband Paul Bley.
Born Alice McLeod in Detroit, Michigan, Alice Coltrane worked as a in various straight-ahead and swinging settings, including with Lucky Thompson, Kenny Clarke and the vibraphonist Terry Gibbs’ quartet.
After she met John Coltrane, the pair’s lives and became more overtly spiritual, and she replaced McCoy Tyner as the in John’s in 1966 as his embraced freer forms.
After her husband’s death she began to record as a leader. Now heard on harp as well as piano & organ, and accompanied by lush string arrangements and large ensembles, these cosmic sounds have proved highly influential.
Quick listening tip: Universal Consciousness (1871) is Alice Coltrane’s fifth solo free and more structured composition. and the mystical and highly spiritual combines elements of modal ,
After beginning his career with pianist Herbie Hancock released 1962’s Takin’ Off , which includes his famous hit ‘Watermelon Man’ and is surely one of the most impressive debuts of any in . Donald Byrd in the early 1960s,
He made a whole host of great albums, mostly for Blue Note, during the ’60s as both and sideman, as well as playing piano in Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet.
That Tony Williams, and took a freewheeling approach to traditional structures and harmony. also included greats Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and
Later, Hancock embraced fusion, funk and disco, with pioneering electric albums like Headhunters and Thrust. His 2007 of Joni Mitchell covers ( River: The Joni Letters ) won the for of the Year, as his extremely varied career showed no sign of stopping.
Quick listening tip: Maiden Voyage
Hancock was still just 24 years old when he recorded this 1965 classic which has a nautical theme and includes tunes like ‘Dolphin Dance’ and ‘Maiden Voyage’, which have gone on to become standards .
Chick Corea began his career as a straightahead settings in the mid-1960s, accompanying the likes of Sonny Stitt and Blue Mitchell, with whom he recorded the brilliant The Thing To Do.
However, he soon developed as one of the major post-Evans/Tyner voices in Avant garde groups with Anthony Braxton. , playing in a range of settings, including on Miles Davis’ seminal -rock albums In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew, and in
He embraced crowd-pleasing fusion with his bands Return To Forever and later the Chick Corea Electrik , recording well-known compositions like ‘Spain’ and ‘Armando’s Rumba’.
However, he has also made various returns to acoustic , including his Trilogy project with Christian McBride and Brian Blade, as well as making contemporary classical and solo piano recordings.
Tony Williams was a child prodigy who became the drummer in Miles Davis’ ‘Second Great Quintet’ aged just 17.
With this group he recorded, amongst many others, Seven Steps To Heaven, E.S.P, Four & More and Nefertiti.
Alongside his role in this seminal best : Eric Dolphy’s Out To Lunch, Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage & albums in historySam Rivers’ Fuchsia , to name just three. group, he was also integral to several other albums which can easily claim a place in the list of
Quick tip: For drummers looking to learn more about his playing style, The Drummer’s Complete Vocabulary is a fascinating insight into the method of his teacher Alan Dawson.
Keith Jarrett initially attracted attention from the mid-1960s as a young sideman with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Charles Lloyd’s quartet and Miles Davis, before launching two quartets of his own in the 1970s.
His ‘American Quartet’ featured Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian playing over raucous, groovy vamps inspired by Ornette Coleman and various folk traditions.
His European Quartet, with Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen, focused on more overtly melodic tunes.
In the 80s, Keith Jarrett put together a trio with drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Gary Peacock, which focused on standards from the Great American Songbook and bebop repertoire, proving extremely popular and recording prolifically until it disbanded in 2014.
He has also made numerous solo albums and is an acclaimed classical pianist and harpsichordist, having recorded works by Bach, Handel, Mozart, Shostakovich and others.
Pat Metheny burst onto the international as a prodigious talent in the mid-1970s, with a three-year stint in vibraphonist Gary Burton’s scene and, at 19, became the youngest teacher in the history of Berklee College of .
In an extremely wide-ranging career he has collaborated with musicians as varied as minimalist classical Steve Reich; legends Ornette Coleman, Jim Hall and Herbie Hancock; Brazilian -songwriter Milton Nascimento, and even pop star David Bowie.
His Pat Metheny Group – best described as a – has generally been his main outlet and one which he continues to record and tour with. fusion
Fact: Pat Metheny was the first person to win Grammys in 10 different categories.
Thanks for checking out this list of some of the best jazz musicians of all time.
Of course, these jazz artists just scratch the surface of a rich and complex history which is there to be discovered! So dive into the music and see where you end up…
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