Top 10 Best Jazz Artists and Musicians

The Top Ten
1 Miles Davis Miles Dewey Davis III was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. He is among the most influential and acclaimed figures in the history of jazz and 20th century music.

Umm... Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple Pilots are not better jazz artists than Miles Davis because they are not jazz artists. Even though they are well-known rock artists, they are still not better jazz artists than Miles Davis.

Miles really changed the game when it came to jazz music. If he wasn't around, I don't think we would've had artists like Robert Glasper and Christian Scott today.

The one who got me interested in jazz. Bitches Brew is a fantastic album that helped usher in jazz fusion.

2 John Coltrane John William Coltrane was an American jazz saxophonist and composer, also known as "Trane". Working in the bebop and hard bop idioms early in his career, Coltrane helped pioneer the use of modes and was later at the forefront of free jazz.

God-given talent and the greatest emotional output ever. The greatest. Period.

3 Louis Armstrong Louis Armstrong, nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American trumpeter, composer and singer who was one of the most influential figures in jazz.

While John Coltrane and Miles Davis are certainly worthy of consideration for being the greatest, I think it would be beyond unfair to rank them ahead of Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong for receiving that honor.

Born a poor boy in New Orleans in 1901, Armstrong learned to play, sing, and perform while developing the sound and style of jazz music as it evolved throughout its height in the 1920s-1940s. This made him one of the most influential and iconic musicians not only of jazz but of the 20th century altogether.

Not only was his wide and colorful smile unique and inviting, but he also possessed a unique signature voice that emoted the blues and performed insane trumpet solos that have never been duplicated to the effect that he had captured with an audience.

Just take a listen again to masterpieces such as "I Get Jealous," "Blueberry Hill," "Shadrack," "Skokiaan," "What a Wonderful World," "La Vie En Rose," "Mack the Knife," and "When the Saints Go Marching In." Similar to what another commentator stated in this section, Louis Armstrong's place in jazz history as the greatest is cemented, like Muddy Waters was to the blues, the Beatles were to rock and roll, or what Tupac Shakur was to hip-hop.

4 Ella Fitzgerald Ella Jane Fitzgerald was an American jazz singer often referred to as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz and Lady Ella.

Ella Fitzgerald should be right at the top of this list. No one does ballads and up-tempo numbers with the same fluency and consistency as Ella. Even fellow greats like Bing Crosby, Duke Ellington, and Ira Gershwin have praised her beyond themselves.

It's hard to believe that this lady is so low down on this list. I love Amy Winehouse. She had an incredible jazz voice, but to place her above Ella? Come on!

I adore this woman. She's just amazing.

5 Duke Ellington Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and bandleader of a jazz orchestra, which he led from 1923 until his death in a career spanning over fifty years.

Duke Ellington is the sound of interwar, the sound of the classiest jazz. So many greats out there, but Duke will always be the true icon.

Sir Duke should be number 1 or 2. A great pianist and composer. Surely better than 5 on the list.

He is just awesome. I can't stop listening to him. Whenever I open iTunes, the first song I listen to is always one of Duke Ellington's songs.

6 Charlie Parker Charles "Charlie" Parker, Jr., also known as "Yardbird" and "Bird", was an American jazz saxophonist and composer.

Wow, I can't believe such a prolific figure got number 7! Bird was a genius! His sense of harmony and melody is unmatched by anybody even to this day. His improvisational skills display virtuosic technique that cannot be compared with a lot of jazz musicians.

Parker was a god! His album Bird was one of the best I've ever heard. I'm astounded that he's not higher. I don't even know who Django Reinhardt is. I don't even know one of his songs. But I could list off Charlie Parker's songs and albums faster than you could look them up.

7 Herbie Hancock

My new favorite jazz artist. With me being a saxophonist, Bennie's work is the key element for me.

8 Billie Holiday Eleanora Fagan, professionally known as Billie Holiday, was an American jazz musician and singer-songwriter with a career spanning nearly thirty years.

Are you guys kidding me? Billie Holiday is one of the jazz greats! Everything about her is amazing. Her signature style of singing half a beat behind but never off-tune, and the obvious pain and experience in her voice as she sings are remarkable.

Honestly, when she sings, it lets you know that no one will ever sing like that again. The era of great jazz singers is over.

I have extremely eclectic taste. I love jazz, classic rock, indie pop, and a thousand things in between, but my favorite artist of all time is, hands down, Billie Holiday. No one has ever sung their soul like she did. You feel her pain, her joy, and her frailty in every note.

There's no better rainy day soundtrack, wedding theme, or breakup anthem than Lady Day.

9 Frank Sinatra Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra (December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998) was an American singer, actor, and producer who was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide... read more

I expected him to be number 1. His voice is very unique.

I don't understand why he is not number one.

He had the biggest voice ever!

10 Charles Mingus

No legitimate jazz artist ranking has Mingus outside of the top 10. His compositions were simply unreal. "Structured chaos," as someone else here put it. If you haven't heard much of his stuff, I recommend "Moanin'" (Mingus Big Band version), "The I of Hurricane Sue," "Adagio ma non troppo," and "Ysabel's Table Dance" especially.

Classical compositional elements with such a free sound. Duke's only composer peer.

The liner notes on one of his albums are from his psychologist. That tells you how good he is!

The Contenders
11 Return to Forever

Absolutely! One of jazz's all-time best groups. Their first album, "Return to Forever," is a gem and one of my very favorites.

Their album "Romantic Warrior" is jazz fusion at its finest.

12 Art Blakey
13 Wes Montgomery John Leslie "Wes" Montgomery was an American jazz guitarist. He is widely considered one of the major jazz guitarists, emerging after such seminal figures as Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian and influencing countless others.

Easily the greatest jazz guitarist who ever lived. And when you think that he just played with his thumb for picking and three fingers for fretting... damn. Spectacular.

He helped introduce jazz to popular music.

14 Tony Bennett Anthony Dominick Benedetto, known professionally as Tony Bennett, was an American singer of traditional pop standards, big band, and show tunes.

He's still got it. Don't believe me? Listen to the album Cheek to Cheek he made with Lady Gaga, who, by the way, also has an incredibly rich voice for jazz.

15 Weather Report

What talent in one group. I still miss Jaco.

16 Kamasi Washington

A more modern jazz artist, but he's great. Just listen to The Epic and tell me how it's not good.

17 Thelonious Monk

His style of piano playing is unique. Each person in his quartet is so talented. He has the best jazz quartet I have ever heard in my life.

18 Dizzy Gillespie
19 Mahavishnu Orchestra
20 Art Tatum
21 Chet Baker

Brilliant and very talented trumpeter/singer who lived through his music. His music could completely wrench your heart but sound so sweet and heavenly all at the same time.

Dreamy. He bleeds through his music, and all you can hear is his raw emotion. Brilliant!

He has so much tenderness and emotion in his voice and trumpet playing. Genius!

22 Chick Corea

Unbelievable keyboard player. The melodic lines he thinks of on the spot are inconceivable!

23 Al Di Meola Al Di Meola is an American jazz fusion and Latin jazz guitarist, composer, and record producer of Italian origin.
24 Django Reinhardt Django Reinhardt is a famous guitarist in the genre of jazz. He lost 2 of his fingers in a fire but carried on with his playing. He later inspired Tony Iommi, the original guitarist of Black Sabbath, to continue playing after he lost his fingertips in a factory accident. His guitar is an acoustic gypsy... read more

I love stand-alone acoustic guitar jazz solos.

A Gypsy jazz man. Who would have thought it? Only in America. We are blessed.

25 Jaco Pastorius John Francis Anthony "Jaco" Pastorius III was an American jazz bassist who was a member of Weather Report from 1976 to 1981. He worked with Pat Metheny, Joni Mitchell, and recorded albums as a solo artist and band leader.

John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, and Miles Davis are my favorites, but Jaco is the greatest bassist ever.

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