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.

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 1 Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday
4
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.

 2 Miles Davis

Miles Davis
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Famous As: Jazz Trumpeter
Birthdate: May 26, 1926
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Alton, Illinois
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 Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole
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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.

 4 Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt
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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 Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana
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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.

 6 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
Birthplace: Manhattan

 7 Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan
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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.
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 8 Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington
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Famous As: Composer, Pianist and Bandleader
Birthdate: April 29, 1899
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Washington, D.C.
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.

 9 Gary Burghoff

Gary Burghoff
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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.

 10 Chet Baker

Chet Baker
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Famous As: Jazz Trumpeter
Birthdate: December 23, 1929
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Yale, Oklahoma
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.

 11 Kenny G

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

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.

 12 Bobby Darin

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

 13 Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk
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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.

 14 Eva Cassidy

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

 15 Thundercat

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

 16 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
Birthplace: Los Angeles

 17 Jaco Pastorius

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

 18 Buddy Rich

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

 19 Jon Batiste

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

 20 Herb Alpert

Herb Alpert
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: March 31, 1935
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California
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.

 21 Rita Coolidge

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

 22 Ralph Tresvant

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

 23 Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie
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Famous As: 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.

 24 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
Birthplace: Belleville

 25 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
Birthplace: Pittsburgh

 26 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
Birthplace: New Orleans

 27 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
Birthplace: Chicago

 28 Scatman John

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

 29 Donald Fagen

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

 30 Al Jarreau

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

 31 Charles Mingus

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

 32 Walter Becker

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

 33 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
Birthplace: Kent

 34 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
Birthplace: Luttrell
Died: June 30, 2001

 35 Mel Tormé

Mel Tormé
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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

 36 Esperanza Spalding

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

 37 Jeff Porcaro

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

 38 Peggy Lee

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

 39 Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis
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Famous As: Trumpeter
Birthdate: October 18, 1961
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

 40 Cindy Vela

Cindy Vela
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: January 4, 1979
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Brownsville, Texas
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. 

 41 Madlib

Madlib
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Famous As: Composer, Disc jockey, Jazz musician, Record producer
Birthdate: October 24, 1973
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Oxnard

 42 Tevin Campbell

Tevin Campbell
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: November 12, 1976
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Waxahachie

 43 Wendy Carlos

Wendy Carlos
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: November 14, 1939
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Pawtucket, Rhode Island, USA

 44 Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: March 27, 1924
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, United States
Died: April 3, 1990

 45 Danny Carey

Danny Carey
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Famous As: Drummer, Jazz musician
Birthdate: May 10, 1961
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Lawrence

 46 Neal Schon

Neal Schon
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Famous As: Guitarist, Jazz musician
Birthdate: February 27, 1954
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tinker Air Force Base

 47 Montell Jordan

Montell Jordan
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Famous As: Singer, Singer-songwriter, Record producer
Birthdate: December 3, 1968
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Los Angeles

 48 John Densmore

John Densmore
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: December 1, 1944
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Santa Monica, California, USA

 49 Buckethead

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

 50 Michael McCary

Michael McCary
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: December 16, 1971
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia