The Most Influential Jazz Artists in the U.S.

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Miles Davis

Miles Davis was one of the most influential jazz artists in the United States and one of the most instrumental in the development of the jazz era. Davis was born in 1926 and traveled to New York City at the age of eighteen to pursue his love for music. Both a trumpet player and a bandleader, Davis was the first musician of the post-hippie era to incorporate rock into his styling.

Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie was known for his “swollen” cheeks when he would play trumpet. Born in 1917, Gillespie got his start in the 1930s by working with bands including those of Benny Carter and Charlie Barnet. He is also known for creating “bebop,” with some of his best work including, “Groovin’ High,” “Salt Peanuts,” and “A Night in Tunisia.”

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday is considered one of the best jazz vocalists of all time even though she never composed her own music. She was born in 1915 and had a music career that spanned over thirty years. Her song “Strange Fruit” is one of the most important songs in American history. The song, first written as a poem, protested American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans.

John Coltrane

John Coltrane was a famous saxophonist and composer with iconic albums like “Giant Steps” and “A Love Supreme.” Coltrane worked with the best in the jazz world, including Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, and Miles Davis. What sets aside Coltrane from the rest was his ability to play several notes at once, dubbed by a critic as a “sheets of sound” technique.

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington was a pianist and an originator of big-bang jazz. Over his 50-year career Ellington composed thousands of scores. Ellington penned many famous standards including Cotton Tail” and one very popular jazz song, “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If You Ain’t Got That Swing.)” Unlike other jazz musicians, Ellington’s work was more structured and sophisticated. The way he performed was somewhat like its own art form.

Louis Armstrong

By far, one of the most recognizable musicians in the jazz world is Louis Armstrong. With songs like “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “What a Wonderful World,” Armstrong was extremely talented and one of the best jazz players in the world. Born in 1901 in New Orleans, Armstrong grew to fame in the 1920s, playing the trumpet. However, he was also a bandleader, singer, soloist, film star. and comedian. It was his charismatic stage presence and maybe his raspy voice which impressed not only the jazz world but also all of music. His contributions to jazz and music all together are immeasurable.

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