Famous 20th Century Jazz Musicians

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Jeff Goldblum

Jeff Goldblum
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 22, 1952
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: West Homestead, Pennsylvania, United States

Having starred in some of the highest-grossing films, such as Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum is one of the most bankable actors of his generation. He has also had an impact on the American TV and theatre scene. Also a musician, Goldblum has a couple of studio albums to his credit. He is married to Emilie Livingston, 30 years his junior.

 2 Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: April 7, 1915
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Philadelphia
Died: July 17, 1959
Jazz legend Billie Holiday had a tumultuous childhood and ended up in prison due to prostitution. Upon her release, at 14, she started singing using her pseudonym and performed at sold-out Carnegie Hall shows. Nicknamed Lady Day, she was riddled with alcohol and drug issues. She won four posthumous Grammys.

 3 Miles Davis

Miles Davis
Famous As: Jazz Trumpeter
Birthdate: May 26, 1926
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Alton, Illinois, United States
Died: September 28, 1991
Jazz trumpeter and composer Miles Davis was a pioneer in the bepop and jazz fusion genres. His work also had electronic, African, and Spanish influences. His album Kind of Blue sold 5 million copies in the U.S. and was termed a national treasure by the House of Representatives, years later. 
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 4 Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: January 17, 1927
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: North, South Carolina, United States
Died: December 25, 2008

Eartha Kitt was an American actress, comedian, dancer, and singer-songwriter. Renowned for her distinctive singing style, Kitt recorded several chartbusting songs during the 1950s. Also a well-known activist, Eartha Kitt established a non-profit organization called the Kittsville Youth Foundation, which helped underprivileged youths in Los Angeles. She was also an ardent advocate for same-sex marriage and LGBT rights.

 5 Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: March 17, 1919
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama, United States
Died: February 15, 1965
Jazz pianist/singer Nat King Cole, father of singer Natalie Cole, is best remembered for tracks such as Too Young and Mona Lisa. His last album, L-O-V-E, was recorded while he battled lung cancer. With The Nat King Cole Show, he became the first African-American to host his own show.

 6 Sting

Famous As: Musician & Singer
Birthdate: October 2, 1951
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Wallsend, England

Sting is an English singer-songwriter, musician, and actor. Credited with co-founding the popular rock band, The Police, Sting played an important role in the band's success from 1977 to 1984 during which he served as the band's bassist, lead singer, and principal songwriter. Also known for his work as an activist, Sting has shown interest in political and social issues.

 7 Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana
Birthdate: July 20, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Autlán de Navarro, Jalisco, México

Guitarist Carlos Santana rose to fame in the late 1960s and 1970s with his rock band Santana. He introduced elements of Latin American jazz in his rock music to create unique songs. He is the recipient of ten Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards. Rolling Stone magazine listed him on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists in 2015.

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 8 Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple
Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Singer, Composer, Pianist, Writer, Songwriter, Jazz musician
Birthdate: September 13, 1977
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Manhattan

 9 Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: March 23, 1953
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois
Ten-time Grammy-winning funk/R&B/disco artist Chaka Khan, or the Queen of Funk, soared to fame as the frontwoman of the band Rufus. Known for her hit track I Feel for You, Khan has sold 70 million records and has ranked 17th on VH1’s 100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll list.

 10 Anni-Frid Lyngstad

Anni-Frid Lyngstad
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: November 15, 1945
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Bjørkåsen, Ballangen, Norway

 11 Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington
Famous As: Composer, Pianist
Birthdate: April 29, 1899
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States
Died: May 24, 1974
Jazz legend Duke Ellington managed his orchestra till his death, and over a 6-decade-long career. He is known for his collaborations with legends such as pianist and composer Billy Strayhorn. He termed his music “American music” and refused to attach any category to it. He received a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.

 12 John Coltrane

John Coltrane
Famous As: Saxophonist, Composer
Birthdate: September 23, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: HaHamlet, North Carolina, United States
Died: July 17, 1967
Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane is remembered for his significant influence on modern jazz. He was initially part of the Navy band and eventually collaborated with musicians such as Miles Davis. He won a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and was canonized by the African Orthodox Church.

 13 Bobby Darin

Bobby Darin
Famous As: Singer, Actor, Jazz musician, Songwriter
Birthdate: May 14, 1936
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City
Died: December 20, 1973

 14 Don Shirley

Don Shirley
Famous As: Composer
Birthdate: January 29, 1927
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pensacola, Florida, USA
Died: April 6, 2013

 15 Gary Burghoff

Gary Burghoff
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 24, 1943
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bristol, Connecticut

Gary Burghoff is an American actor who is credited with originating the popular role of Charlie Brown in the 1967 Broadway musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. He is also known for originating the role of Walter Eugene O'Reilly in the 1970 black comedy war movie MASH and the popular TV series of the same name.

 16 Ginger Baker

Ginger Baker
Famous As: Drummer, Jazz musician, Musician, Songwriter
Birthdate: August 19, 1939
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: London Borough of Lewisham

 17 Chet Baker

Chet Baker
Famous As: Jazz Trumpeter
Birthdate: December 23, 1929
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Yale, Oklahoma, United States
Died: May 13, 1988

Chet Baker was an American vocalist and jazz trumpeter. He achieved recognition during the 1950s and his innovations within cool jazz, a style of modern jazz music, earned him the nickname prince of cool. However, his drug addiction overshadowed much of his professional achievements. His life and work inspired the 2015 drama film Born to Be Blue.

 18 Kenny G

Kenny G
Famous As: Saxophonist
Birthdate: June 5, 1956
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, United States

Kenneth Bruce Gorelick, better known as Kenny G, is a best-selling jazz saxophonist who has sold over 75 million records and even owns a line of saxophones. He is also a certified pilot and a skilled golfer who has participated in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am seven times.

 19 Mick Taylor

Mick Taylor
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: January 17, 1949
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Welwyn Garden City, England

Mick Taylor soared to fame as the guitarist of iconic rock band The Rolling Stones. He has also been part of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Named to the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, he was also declared one of Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

 20 Jon Batiste

Jon Batiste
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: November 11, 1986
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Kenner, Louisiana, United States

 21 Jaco Pastorius

Jaco Pastorius
Famous As: Bassist, Composer, Jazz musician, Bandleader
Birthdate: December 1, 1951
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Norristown
Died: September 21, 1987

 22 Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk
Famous As: Jazz Pianist & Composer
Birthdate: October 10, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Rocky Mount, North Carolina, United States
Died: February 17, 1982

Thelonious Monk was an American jazz pianist and composer who was noted for his unorthodox approach and idiosyncrasy during his performance. Mentored by Mary Lou Williams, Thelonious Monk contributed to bebop and was associated with Columbia and Riverside labels. His run-in with the police affected his performance after his New York City Cabaret Card was confiscated following the discovery of narcotics in a car.

 23 Buddy Rich

Buddy Rich
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: September 30, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, USA
Died: April 2, 1987

 24 Thundercat

Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: October 19, 1984
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

 25 Django Reinhardt

Django Reinhardt
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: January 23, 1910
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Liberchies, Belgium
Died: May 16, 1953
Belgian-born Romani-French jazz musician Jean Reinhardt was better known by his nickname Django. Some of his most celebrated composition were Belleville and Swing '42. Though he died at 43, he influenced an entire generation of musicians, which led to annual Django Festivals, a film, and a biography.

 26 Herb Alpert

Herb Alpert
Famous As: Trumpeter
Birthdate: March 31, 1935
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, California, United States
Herb Alpert is an American trumpeter who achieved popularity in the 1960s when he led the band Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. He is also credited with co-founding A&M Records. Also a well-known philanthropist, Alpert launched the Herb Alpert Foundation in the 1980s in an attempt to deal with environmental issues and support youth and arts education.

 27 Buckethead

Famous As: Guitarist, Composer, Banjoist, Jazz musician, Jazz guitarist
Birthdate: May 13, 1969
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Huntington Beach

 28 Donald Fagen

Donald Fagen
Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Singer, Pianist
Birthdate: January 10, 1948
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Passaic, New Jersey, United States

 29 Ralph Tresvant

Ralph Tresvant
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: May 16, 1968
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Roxbury

 30 Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie
Famous As: Jazz Trumpeter, Bandleader
Birthdate: October 21, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Cheraw, South Carolina, United States
Died: January 6, 1993

Jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and singer Dizzy Gillespie developed the virtuoso style of Roy Eldridge, modifying it with innovative harmony and rhythm. He popularized the bebop style of music and was famous for his signature horn-rimmed spectacles. His contribution to modern jazz earned him the title of the Ambassador of Jazz.

 31 Lea DeLaria

Lea DeLaria
Famous As: Actor, Jazz musician, Singer, Stage actor, Television actor
Birthdate: May 23, 1958
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Belleville

 32 George Benson

George Benson
Famous As: Guitarist, Singer, Songwriter, Jazz musician, Composer, Jazz guitarist
Birthdate: March 22, 1943
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Pittsburgh

 33 Scatman John

Scatman John
Famous As: Musician, Singer
Birthdate: March 13, 1942
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Monte, California, United States
Died: December 3, 1999

 34 Chick Corea

Chick Corea
Famous As: Jazz musician, Composer
Birthdate: June 12, 1941
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chelsea, Massachusetts, United States
Died: February 9, 2021

 35 Kyle Eastwood

Kyle Eastwood
Famous As: Actor, Composer, Jazz musician, Music arranger, Jazz guitarist, Film score composer
Birthdate: May 19, 1968
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Los Angeles

 36 Benny Goodman

Benny Goodman
Famous As: Bandleader and clarinetist
Birthdate: May 30, 1909
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: June 13, 1986

 37 Malcolm John Rebennack Jr.

Malcolm John Rebennack Jr.
Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Singer, Pianist, Jazz musician, Guitarist
Birthdate: November 21, 1940
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: New Orleans

 38 Al Jarreau

Al Jarreau
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: March 12, 1940
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
Died: February 12, 2017

 39 Eva Cassidy

Eva Cassidy
Famous As: Singer, Guitarist
Birthdate: February 2, 1963
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Oxon Hill, Maryland, United States
Died: November 2, 1996

 40 Charles Mingus

Charles Mingus
Famous As: Jazz Pianist
Birthdate: April 22, 1922
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nogales, Arizona, United States
Died: January 5, 1979
Jazz double bassist and pianist Charles Mingus is remembered for his stints with artists such as Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Dannie Richmond, and Herbie Hancock, and was named to the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame. His scores and recordings are preserved in the Library of Congress.

 41 Peggy Lee

Peggy Lee
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: May 26, 1920
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Jamestown, North Dakota, United States
Died: January 21, 2002

 42 Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock
Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Bandleader, Conductor, Jazz musician, Keyboardist, Actor, Musician, Pianist, Film score composer
Birthdate: April 12, 1940
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago

 43 Jeff Porcaro

Jeff Porcaro
Famous As: Drummer, Jazz musician
Birthdate: April 1, 1954
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Hartford
Died: August 5, 1992

 44 Mel Tormé

Mel Tormé
Famous As: Actor, Singer, Composer, Novelist, Songwriter, Autobiographer, Jazz musician, Television actor, Writer
Birthdate: September 13, 1925
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: June 5, 1999

 45 Walter Becker

Walter Becker
Famous As: Guitarist, Record producer
Birthdate: February 20, 1950
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Queens, New York, United States

 46 Rita Coolidge

Rita Coolidge
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: May 1, 1945
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Lafayette, Tennessee, United States

 47 Chet Atkins

Chet Atkins
Famous As: Guitarist, Jazz musician, Record producer, Jazz guitarist, Classical guitarist, Songwriter
Birthdate: June 20, 1924
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Luttrell
Died: June 30, 2001

 48 Judith Durham

Judith Durham
Famous As: Singer, Jazz musician, Pianist, Songwriter
Birthdate: July 3, 1943
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Essendon

Judith Durham is an Australian musician, singer, and songwriter. In 1963, she became the lead singer of the popular folk-influenced pop quartet The Seekers, which became the first Australian pop band to achieve major sales and chart success in the United States and the United Kingdom. Her services to music earned her the title Victorian of the Year in 2015.

 49 Corinne Bailey Rae

Corinne Bailey Rae
Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Singer, Guitarist, Jazz musician
Birthdate: February 26, 1979
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Leeds

 50 Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding
Famous As: Music educator, Jazz musician, Singer
Birthdate: October 18, 1984
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Portland