Famous American 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.

Vote for Your Favourite American Jazz Musicians

 1 Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong
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Famous As: Trumpeter
Birthdate: August 4, 1901
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American
Died: July 6, 1971

Louis Armstrong was an American trumpeter and singer who played an important role in the development of jazz. Thanks to his playing, trumpet became known as a solo instrument and jazz, which was previously known as a collectively improvised folk music, became a soloist's art form. Not surprisingly, Louis Armstrong is widely accepted as the embodiment of jazz. 

 2 Miles Davis

Miles Davis
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Famous As: Jazz Trumpeter
Birthdate: May 26, 1926
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American
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. 

 3 Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: April 7, 1915
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American
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.

 4 Sammy Davis, Jr.

Sammy Davis, Jr.
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: December 8, 1925
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: May 16, 1990

 5 Tom Waits

Tom Waits
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Famous As: Singer, Composer, Actor
Birthdate: December 7, 1949
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

Tom Waits is a musician and songwriter. His lyrics, which are delivered in his trademark gravelly voice, often focus on the underbelly of society. His story of being born in a middle-class family to becoming one of the greatest songwriters of all time serves as an inspiration to many. He has also influenced several musicians and attained a cult following.

 6 Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: January 17, 1927
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
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.

 7 Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana
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Birthdate: July 20, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

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 Bobby Darin

Bobby Darin
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Famous As: Singer, Actor, Jazz musician, Songwriter
Birthdate: May 14, 1936
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
Died: December 20, 1973

 9 Fiona Apple

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

 10 Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington
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Famous As: Composer, Pianist and Bandleader
Birthdate: April 29, 1899
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
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.

 11 Buckethead

Buckethead
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Famous As: Guitarist, Composer, Banjoist, Jazz musician, Jazz guitarist
Birthdate: May 13, 1969
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American

 12 Gary Burghoff

Gary Burghoff
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 24, 1943
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American

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.

 13 Kyle Eastwood

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

 14 Chet Baker

Chet Baker
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Famous As: Jazz Trumpeter
Birthdate: December 23, 1929
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
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.

 15 Kenny G

Kenny G
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Famous As: Saxophonist
Birthdate: June 5, 1956
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American

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.

 16 Eva Cassidy

Eva Cassidy
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Famous As: Singer, Jazz musician
Birthdate: February 2, 1963
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: November 2, 1996

 17 Herbie Hancock

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

 18 Gwen Verdon

Gwen Verdon
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: January 13, 1925
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Died: October 18, 2000

Four-time Tony-winning actor Gwen Verdon is remembered for her SAG-nominated performance in Marvin’s Room. She was known for her signature red hair and her love for cats. She was nominated for Emmys for the series Magnum, P.I., Dream On, and Homicide: Life on the Street. She inspired the series Fosse/Verdon.

 19 Jaco Pastorius

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

 20 Thundercat

Thundercat
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: October 19, 1984
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American

 21 Rita Coolidge

Rita Coolidge
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: May 1, 1945
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American

 22 Buddy Rich

Buddy Rich
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: September 30, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: April 2, 1987

 23 Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk
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Famous As: Jazz Pianist & Composer
Birthdate: October 10, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
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.

 24 Chick Corea

Chick Corea
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Famous As: Pianist, Composer, Jazz musician
Birthdate: June 12, 1941
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American

 25 Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix
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Famous As: Singer & Musician
Birthdate: November 27, 1942
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: September 18, 1970

One of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century, Jimi Hendrix began playing guitar at the age of 15. As his career progressed, he became the first musician to use stereophonic phasing effects in recordings. Rolling Stone ranked him as the greatest guitarist and the sixth greatest artist of all time. He died under mysterious circumstances at the age of 27.

 26 Julie London

Julie London
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Famous As: Actor, Singer, Singer-songwriter, Jazz musician, Character actor, Stage actor, Television actor
Birthdate: September 26, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: October 18, 2000

 27 Herb Alpert

Herb Alpert
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: March 31, 1935
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American
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.

 28 Rachael MacFarlane

Rachael MacFarlane
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Famous As: Voice actor, Unit production manager, Writer, Actor, Jazz musician, Singer
Birthdate: March 21, 1976
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

 29 Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: April 29, 1933
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American

An accomplished musician and one of the most popular names of the late 20th century American country music, Willie Nelson garnered fame with his albums Shotgun Willie, Red Headed Stranger, Stardust and Always on My Mind. The multiple Grammy award winning musician, who continues to record even today, has also appeared in numerous films and authored a number of books.

 30 Ralph Tresvant

Ralph Tresvant
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: May 16, 1968
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American

 31 Malcolm John Rebennack Jr.

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

 32 Donald Fagen

Donald Fagen
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Singer, Pianist
Birthdate: January 10, 1948
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American

 33 Lea DeLaria

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

 34 Tevin Campbell

Tevin Campbell
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: November 12, 1976
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American

 35 George Benson

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

 36 Walter Becker

Walter Becker
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Famous As: Guitarist, Songwriter, Jazz musician, Jazz guitarist, Record producer, Composer
Birthdate: February 20, 1950
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American

 37 Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie
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Famous As: Bandleader
Birthdate: October 21, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
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.

 38 Les Paul

Les Paul
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Famous As: Guitarist, Banjoist, Inventor, Jazz musician, Jazz guitarist, Radio personality, Musical instrument maker
Birthdate: June 9, 1915
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American
Died: August 13, 2009

 39 Al Jarreau

Al Jarreau
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Famous As: Singer, Singer-songwriter, Jazz musician, Social worker
Birthdate: March 12, 1940
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
Died: February 12, 2017

 40 Neal Schon

Neal Schon
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Famous As: Guitarist, Jazz musician
Birthdate: February 27, 1954
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American

 41 Jon Batiste

Jon Batiste
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: November 11, 1986
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American

 42 Peggy Lee

Peggy Lee
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: May 26, 1920
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American
Died: January 21, 2002

 43 Jeff Porcaro

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

 44 Michael McCary

Michael McCary
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: December 16, 1971
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

 45 John L. Nelson

John L. Nelson
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: June 29, 1916
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Died: August 25, 2001

 46 Charles Mingus

Charles Mingus
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Famous As: Jazz Musician
Birthdate: April 22, 1922
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
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.

 47 Chet Atkins

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

 48 Tim Buckley

Tim Buckley
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Famous As: singer-songwriter, singer, banjoist, jazz musician, guitarist, jazz guitarist
Birthdate: February 14, 1947
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: June 29, 1975

 49 Esperanza Spalding

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

 50 Cindy Vela

Cindy Vela
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: January 4, 1979
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Cindy Vela is best known for her roles in movies such as Black November, Camino, and Endgame. She is also a talented saxophonist and has been a model and a muse. The short film Exhibit-B5, which featured her as an accident victim, became viral on social media as real.