It is without a doubt that Louis Armstrong is one of the most influential musicians in jazz history. Jazz music, often referred to as America's greatest art form, is a relatively young genre that dates back to the early 20th century. It began in New Orleans as dance music, and creative musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Duke Ellington helped propel jazz into a wide variety of popular musical styles. Louis Armstrong, also known as “Satchmo”, was born in 1901 in New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz music.
He was raised by his grandmother and grew up in poverty in one of the poorest areas of New Orleans. Charlie Parker, nicknamed “Bird” and “Yardbird”, was an American jazz saxophonist who created the jazz style known as “bebop”. After touring and playing with several bands, he moved to New York in 1939 to pursue music. Miles Davis is an iconic figure in jazz history and is a name that people know even if they are not familiar with jazz music.
Born in Illinois in 1926, Davis moved to New York City to study at Juilliard School but left in 1944 to play in Charlie Parker's group. He then went on to write his own music and record solo records. John Coltrane, like Miles Davis, helped establish modal harmonies in jazz music. Born in 1926 in North Carolina, Coltrane directed many recording sessions that are now classic records in jazz recording literature.
Duke Ellington was famous for leading great jazz bands and orchestras by the 1930s and one of his best-known pieces of music was “It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)”. Wynton Marsalis is a famous name in the trumpet world and has talent in both classical and jazz music. Born in New Orleans in 1961, he is best known for his jazz music but has also released high-level classic albums. Ella Fitzgerald was a legendary female jazz singer who people deservedly call the “Queen of Jazz”.
Dave Brubeck was born in California in 1920 and was a jazz composer and pianist who became famous for hits such as “In Your Own Sweet Way”, “Take Five”, and “Unsquare Dance”. The success of “Take Five”, which is in the unusual beat of 5 beats per measure, made it the best-selling jazz-single of all time. Dizzy Gillespie was born in South Carolina in 1917 and is probably best known for his iconic look of big cheeks swelling as he played his trumpet. In addition to playing the trumpet, Gillespie was also a singer, songwriter, bandleader, and educator who had a gigantic influence on Miles Davis.
Thelonious Monk was born in North Carolina in 1917 and became known for his inventive piano performance that involved dissonant harmonies and unexpected twists in his improvisational melodies. Monk was recorded almost as much as Duke Ellington and was also well known for his consistently iconic look of a suit, hat, and sunglasses. Before jazz, Monk worked as a church organist in his teens before getting more work in jazz by the 1940s. Billie Holiday was born in Philadelphia in 1915 and had a difficult childhood but by the time she was a teenager she moved to Harlem and started singing in nightclubs.
In the mid-1930s she collaborated with pianist Teddy Wilson and became well known for her ability to improvise deeply and emotionally. Chet Baker was born in Oklahoma 1929 and was equally skilled at singing and playing the trumpet which earned him the nickname “prince of cool” due to his influence on the cool jazz movement. After leaving the army in 1951 he began to dedicate himself to music and played many concerts with Charlie Parker. Count Basie was also a famous bandleader who formed the Count Basie Orchestra in 1935 after moving to Harlem to be closer to some of the best jazz performers of the time. He conducted his orchestra for more than 50 years helping start many younger careers along the way. Mary Lou Williams was musically gifted considering she began learning piano at age 3 and by her teens she was playing in theaters with musicians like Duke Ellington.
Ray Brown was a legendary jazz double bass player who regularly played with jazz icons Oscar Peterson and Ella Fitzgerald after becoming known in the Pittsburgh jazz community. He moved to New York City in his twenties where he began dating and playing with big names such as Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, and Charlie Parker. Benny Goodman is credited with helping jazz become a popular genre that is respected as legitimate music within the United States after one concert at Carnegie Hall which critics described as one of the most important moments for jazz within the United States. Django Reinhardt was born Jean Reinhardt but became known on the jazz scene under the nickname “Django” when he recorded with many famous American jazz musicians when they visited France including Benny Carter and Duke Ellington. Coleman Hawkins nicknamed “Hawk” was born Missouri 1904 and was one of the first people to popularize the tenor saxophone within the jazz world after moving to New York City 1923 where he quickly began playing with some of best players there between swing jazz period bebop music 1940s.