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: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: April 7, 1915
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
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: One of the Most Influential and Acclaimed Figures in the History of Jazz and 20th-Century Music
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. 

 3 Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole
5
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 John Coltrane

John Coltrane
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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.

 5 Bobby Darin

Bobby Darin
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Famous As: Pop vocalist who released the hits "Mack the Knife," "Dream Lover," and "Beyond the Sea."
Birthdate: May 14, 1936
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: East Harlem, New York, United States
Died: December 20, 1973

 6 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.

 7 Jon Batiste

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

Charlie Parker
4
Famous As: Jazz saxophonist, composer
Birthdate: August 29, 1920
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Kansas City, Kansas, United States
Died: March 12, 1955

Charlie Parker was an American composer and jazz saxophonist. A highly influential soloist, Parker played a significant role in the development of a form of jazz called bebop. He is also credited with introducing harmonic ideas into jazz, such as chord substitutions and rapid passing chords. His contribution to jazz and bebop made him an icon of the hipster subculture.

 9 Chet Baker

Chet Baker
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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.

 10 Kenny G

Kenny G
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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.

 11 Don Shirley

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

 12 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

 13 Thundercat

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

 14 Herb Alpert

Herb Alpert
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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.

 15 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

 16 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.

 17 Rita Coolidge

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

 18 Jaco Pastorius

Jaco Pastorius
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: December 1, 1951
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Norristown, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: September 21, 1987

 19 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

 20 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

 21 Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie
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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.

 22 Chick Corea

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

 23 Ralph Tresvant

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

 24 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

 25 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

 26 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

 27 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

 28 Jeff Porcaro

Jeff Porcaro
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Famous As: Former Drummer best known for his work with the rock band Toto, but is one of the most recorded session musicians, working on hundreds of albums and thousands of sessions
Birthdate: April 1, 1954
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Died: August 5, 1992

 29 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

 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: One of The Greatest Jazz Musicians & Composers in History
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.

 32 Benny Goodman

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

 33 Louis Prima

Louis Prima
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: December 7, 1910
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Died: August 24, 1978

 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 Wynton Marsalis

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

 38 Wendy Carlos

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

 39 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

 40 Chuck Mangione

Chuck Mangione
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Famous As: Composers
Birthdate: November 29, 1940
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Rochester, New York, USA

 41 Danny Carey

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

 42 John Densmore

John Densmore
3
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: December 1, 1944
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Santa Monica, California, USA

 43 Stanley Getz

Stanley Getz
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Famous As: Jazz Saxophonist
Birthdate: February 2, 1927
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: June 6, 1991

 44 Madlib

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

 45 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

 46 Keith Jarrett

Keith Jarrett
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Famous As: Pianist, Composer, Jazz musician, Saxophonist, Songwriter, Musician
Birthdate: May 8, 1945
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Allentown

 47 Doc Severinsen

Doc Severinsen
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: July 7, 1927
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Arlington, Oregon, USA

 48 Tevin Campbell

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

 49 Tito Puente

Tito Puente
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Famous As: actor, bandleader, conductor, composer, jazz musician, percussionist
Birthdate: April 20, 1922
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City
Died: June 1, 2000

 50 Tommy Bolin

Tommy Bolin
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Famous As: Guitarist who worked with Zephyr, Deep Purple, and The James Gang, as well as working as a solo artist
Birthdate: August 1, 1951
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Sioux City, Iowa, United States
Died: December 4, 1976