The best-selling jazz recording of all-time, Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, has sold over 4 million copies since its 1959 release. This evergreen record continues to find new life. Its enduring popularity is a testament to jazz’s indelible mark on American culture.
Though jazz record sales are low, jazz music continues to be played live in every city across America. The legacy of America’s art form lives on through modern jazz musicians and will continue in the clubs and speakeasies.
Are you interested in learning more about jazz? Read about some of the most influential jazz artists here.
4 Legendary Jazz Artists
1. Louis Armstrong
New Orleans-born Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, a forefather of the Dixieland jazz scene, was the first breakout jazz artist. His popularity crossed racial barriers and even landed him a US Ambassadorship in 1960.
Though he’s best known for late-career successes like “Hello Dolly” and “What a Wonderful World,” the song “Potato Head Blues” remains one of his most influential recordings.
2. Billie Holiday
Jazz artists today, especially vocalists, owe much of their style to Billie Holiday.
Born Eleanora Fagan in 1915, she found initial success singing in a New York City nightclub. Legendary record producer John Hammond teamed Holiday with Benny Goodman, and it was with Goodman that Lady Day found her initial fame.
Though she lived a stormy personal life, her most famous vocal “Strange Fruit” lives on as a dark and emotional condemnation of American racism.
3. Weather Report
Founded by international jazz musicians Joe Zawinul and Miroslav Vitous, along with American saxophone star Wayne Shorter, Weather Report helped define the 1970s fusion movement.
Jazz Fusion adds elements of rock and roll and funk to traditional jazz arrangments. Over Weather Report’s 16-year run, they remained at the forefront of the fusion movement. They are one of the most influential jazz bands ever and continue to influence jazz artists today.
“Birdland,” featuring the virtuoso bass guitar player Jaco Pastorius, remains their most popular jazz song.
4. Charlie Parker
No list of great jazz musicians would be complete without the mention of Charlie “Bird” Parker, the father of the bebop scene. Born in Kansas City, Parker’s style revolutionized jazz music with its charged tempos, harmonies, and solos. Learning how to play like Parker takes time, but a music school like https://sloanschoolofmusic.com/ can give young musicians their start.
Unfortunately, Parker died due to heroin addiction. His legacy lives on in recordings like “Salt Peanuts” and “A Night in Tunisia.”
All-Time Great Jazz Musicians
These jazz musicians represent a small fraction of the great jazz musicians of the last 100 years. Jazz music is, without question, America’s most beloved and enduring art form. The genre’s history is rich with many influential players and characters.
You can read all the biographies you want, but the only way to learn about jazz and its history is through listening. Head to your local record store and start digging through the stacks. You’ll be surprised at how much you enjoy the music.
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