In 2011, Herbie Hancock, the legendary Jazz pianist and composer, collaborated with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to establish International Jazz Day. Historically, Jazz has dominated the music industry, spawning the careers of numerous musical geniuses and a plethora of fundamental new music styles. Thus, becoming one of the most well-respected American art forms. There are many more important Jazz musicians to mention, such as Charlie Parker and Django Reinhardt, who are almost solely responsible and credited with the introduction of a completely new style of Jazz. Others such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane have aided in the evolution of Jazz from one style to another, but most importantly stands, Louis Armstrong, who is widely regarded as the founder of jazz; at least among the general music community.
At Edifier, we recognize the tremendous impact that these musicians, and genre of music has had on our overall products. From our headphones, speakers, and musical interest, Jazz continues to inspire us. Who is your favourite Jazz musician? We've compiled a list of our top 10 favourite jazz greats in this article, which we hope will serve as a great starting point for learning more about this fascinating genre of music.
1. Louis Armstrong
It's difficult to talk about jazz history without mentioning the jazz music's original superstar, Louis Armstrong. He was born in New Orleans in 1901, was the first major soloist in jazz, and went on to become the most influential musician in the genre's history. He's perhaps best known to the general public as the grinning, gravelly-voiced singer of the 1960s hits "What a Wonderful World" and "Hello Dolly." His incredible technical skills, joy, spontaneity, and incredibly fast and imaginative musical mind continue to dominate Jazz today.
2. Django Reinhardt
Django Reinhardt, born Jean Reinhardt, was a Belgian, Romani-French jazz guitarist and composer, who was generally considered one of the greatest jazz musicians to ever live. Reinhardt's ability to play anything, let alone a six-string guitar, is remarkable when learning Reinhardt suffered severe damage to his left hand’s fourth and fifth fingers following a tragic fire. To this day, Reinhardt remains an influential and highly respected European jazz talent to have emerged from Europe.
3. Charlie Parker
Charles “Charlie” Parker, born in Kansas City in 1920, was a Grammy Award-winning jazz saxophonist who co-invented the bop, or bebop musical form, with John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie. While he is more commonly known as “Bird” or “Yardbird,” Parker was nonetheless a groundbreaking composer and improviser who helped usher in a new age of jazz and inspired generations of musicians and artists long-after his untimely death in 1955 at the age of 34.
4. Charlie Christian
Charles Henry “Charlie” Christian, the "Father of Bebop," and an early pioneer of the electric jazz guitar during the mid-1930s, was born in Texas in 1916 and died in 1942, in New York. He was one of the first to use electrically amplified devices to create improvised masterpieces; although his career was unfortunately cut short by his untimely death in 1942, he still left an indelible mark on the jazz music industry.
5. J.J. Johnson
James Louis “J.J.” Johnson, was an American jazz composer, arranger, and trombonist, born in 1924 and died in 2001 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is notable for being one of the first trombonists to perform in the bebop style. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) named Johnson, Tommy Flanagan, and Benny Golson as Jazz Masters on January 12, 1996, earning the highest honour given to a jazz musician in the United States.
6. Miles Davis
Miles Davis, a Grammy Award-winning trumpeter, music composer, and bandleader, was one of the most important and influential major forces in the jazz community of the 20th century. He was the first musician to combine rock music with traditional jazz, earning him the title of the pioneer of jazz-rock fusion. His Grammy award honour was yet another indication of the musician's profound and long-lasting influence on jazz.
7. Duke Ellington
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington, better known as “Duke” Ellington, was born in West End, Washington, D.C. He began playing the piano and writing music at the age of seven. He was a great jazz pianist with his own distinct style, the most recorded American jazz composer in history, and the leader of a jazz orchestra, with songs such as “Satin Doll,” “Don't Get Around Much Anymore,” “Mood Indigo,” and hundreds of other jazz standards to his credit.
8. John Coltrane
John William Coltrane was an American jazz saxophonist and composer who was born in Hamlet, North Carolina on September 23, 1926. At the age of 17, he received his first saxophone from his mother and began his professional career in 1945. He was one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, present for the birth of modal jazz, and famous for his albums A Love Supreme and Giant Steps.
9. Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday, born in Philadelphia in 1915 and died in New York City in 1959, was an American singer-songwriter. Born Elinore Harris, and nicknamed “Lady Day” by her friend and music partner Lester Young. Holiday was a singer, actress, and composer who was known as one of the best jazz vocalists of the 1930s and 1950s. Her vocal delivery and improvisational abilities were reputable, and had a significant impact on jazz music and pop singing.
10. Thelonious Monk
If you mention jazz and piano, you'll eventually come across Thelonious Monk. He contributed to the cool jazz, hard bop, and bebop styles of music, as well as, created some of the most influential works of jazz, as an American jazz pianist and composer. His angular tunes have influenced generations of musicians and been the subject of hundreds of Monk-themed albums. He was influential in the birth of bebop and is the second most recorded composer in jazz, after Duke Ellington. His improvisational style is one-of-a-kind, and it has made significant contributions to the standard jazz repertoire. "Well, You Needn't," "In Walked Bud," "Ruby, My Dear," "Blue Monk," and "Round Midnight" are among his many songs.
There are still a number of Jazz musicians who did not make our list, but continue to make an incredible impact on the Jazz community:
Thomas Lee Flanagan