Famous Black 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 Miles Davis

Miles Davis
4
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. 

 2 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.

 3 John Coltrane

John Coltrane
4
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.

 4 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.

 5 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

 6 Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk
4
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.

 7 Ralph Tresvant

Ralph Tresvant
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: May 16, 1968
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Roxbury
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 8 Al Jarreau

Al Jarreau
4
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: March 12, 1940
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
Died: February 12, 2017

 9 Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding
4
Famous As: Music educator, Jazz musician, Singer
Birthdate: October 18, 1984
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Portland

 10 Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis
4
Famous As: Trumpeter
Birthdate: October 18, 1961
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

 11 Sarah Vaughan

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

 12 Hugh Masekela

Hugh Masekela
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Famous As: Former Jazz Trumpeter who was described as
Birthdate: April 4, 1939
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Emalahleni Local Municipality, South Africa
Died: January 23, 2018

A pioneer of South African jazz, instrumentalist Hugh Masekela excelled in the trumpet and introduced South African music to countries such as the U.S. He was also a vocal anti-apartheid activist, played for the Jazz Epistles, and was known for his iconic albums such as Hope and Johannesburg.

 13 Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: March 6, 1923
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Died: June 15, 1968

 14 Jelly Roll Morton

Jelly Roll Morton
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Famous As: Pianist, Bandleader, Composer, Conductor, Jazz musician
Birthdate: October 20, 1890
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Gulfport
Died: July 10, 1941

 15 Alice Coltrane

Alice Coltrane
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: August 27, 1937
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States
Died: January 12, 2007

 16 Michael McCary

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

 17 Art Blakey

Art Blakey
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Famous As: Drummer
Birthdate: October 11, 1919
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died: October 16, 1990

 18 Lester Young

Lester Young
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: August 27, 1909
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Woodville, Mississippi, United States
Died: March 15, 1959

 19 Branford Marsalis

Branford Marsalis
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Famous As: Saxophonist primarily known for his work in jazz as the leader of the Branford Marsalis Quartet
Birthdate: August 26, 1960
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, United States

 20 Max Roach

Max Roach
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: January 10, 1924
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Pasquotank County, North Carolina, U.S.
Died: August 16, 2007

 21 Grover Washington, Jr.

Grover Washington, Jr.
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Famous As: Saxophonist
Birthdate: December 12, 1943
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Buffalo, New York, United States
Died: December 17, 1999

 22 McCoy Tyner

McCoy Tyner
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Famous As: Pianist
Birthdate: December 11, 1938
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: March 6, 2020

 23 James Jamerson

James Jamerson
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Famous As: Bass player
Birthdate: January 29, 1936
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Charleston, South Carolina, United States
Died: August 2, 1983

 24 W. C. Handy

W. C. Handy
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Famous As: Composer
Birthdate: November 16, 1873
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Florence, Alabama, United States
Died: March 28, 1958

 25 Don Cherry

Don Cherry
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Famous As: Jazz trumpeter
Birthdate: November 18, 1936
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States
Died: October 19, 1995

 26 Buddy Bolden

Buddy Bolden
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Famous As: Musical Artist
Birthdate: September 6, 1877
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Died: November 4, 1931

 27 Billy Strayhorn

Billy Strayhorn
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Famous As: Former Jazz artist known for this three-decade collaboration with Duke Ellington
Birthdate: November 29, 1915
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dayton, Ohio, United States
Died: May 31, 1967

 28 Louis Jordan

Louis Jordan
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Famous As: Singer, Actor, Saxophonist, Jazz musician
Birthdate: July 8, 1908
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Arkansas
Died: February 4, 1975

 29 Freddie Hubbard

Freddie Hubbard
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Famous As: Trumpeter
Birthdate: April 7, 1938
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Died: December 29, 2008

 30 Roy Hargrove

Roy Hargrove
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: October 16, 1969
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Waco, Texas, United States
Died: November 2, 2018

 31 Donald Byrd

Donald Byrd
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: December 9, 1932
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States
Died: February 4, 2013

 32 Ron Carter

Ron Carter
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: May 4, 1937
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Ferndale, Michigan, U.S.

 33 Earl Hines

Earl Hines
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Famous As: Jazz musician
Birthdate: December 28, 1903
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Duquesne, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: April 22, 1983

 34 Horace Silver

Horace Silver
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Famous As: Pianist
Birthdate: September 2, 1928
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Norwalk, Connecticut, U.S.
Died: June 18, 2014

 35 Eric Dolphy

Eric Dolphy
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: June 20, 1928
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States
Died: June 29, 1964

 36 Ray Brown

Ray Brown
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Famous As: Former jazz double bassist known for extensive work with Oscar Peterson and Ella Fitzgerald
Birthdate: October 13, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: July 2, 2002

 37 Nathan East

Nathan East
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Famous As: Bassist, Jazz musician
Birthdate: December 8, 1955
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia

 38 Terence Blanchard

Terence Blanchard
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: March 13, 1962
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

 39 Chester Thompson

Chester Thompson
2
Famous As: Drummer Best Known for His Tenures with Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention
Birthdate: December 11, 1948
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States

 40 William Onyeabor

William Onyeabor
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: March 26, 1946
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nigeria
Died: January 16, 2017

 41 Charlie Christian

Charlie Christian
2
Famous As: Guitarist
Birthdate: July 29, 1916
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Bonham, Texas, United States
Died: March 2, 1942

 42 Billy Cobham

Billy Cobham
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Famous As: Drummer
Birthdate: May 16, 1944
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Colón, Panama

 43 Cleo Laine

Cleo Laine
3
Famous As: Actress, Singer
Birthdate: October 28, 1927
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Uxbridge, Middlesex, England

 44 Ramsey Lewis

Ramsey Lewis
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Famous As: Radio personality, Jazz musician, Pianist
Birthdate: May 27, 1935
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chicago

 45 Joe Henderson

Joe Henderson
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: April 24, 1937
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Lima, Ohio, United States
Died: June 30, 2001

 46 Bernard Purdie

Bernard Purdie
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Famous As: Drummer
Birthdate: June 11, 1939
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Elkton, Maryland, United States

 47 Christian Scott

Christian Scott
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Famous As: Trumpeter
Birthdate: March 31, 1983
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

 48 Clifford Brown

Clifford Brown
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: October 30, 1930
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Wilmington, Delaware, United States
Died: June 26, 1956

 49 Albert Ayler

Albert Ayler
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Famous As: Saxophonist, Composer
Birthdate: July 13, 1936
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, United States
Died: November 25, 1970

 50 Fletcher Henderson

Fletcher Henderson
2
Famous As: Former pianist, bandleader, arranger and composer, important in the development of big band jazz and swing music
Birthdate: December 18, 1897
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Cuthbert, Georgia, United States
Died: December 29, 1952