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.

Vote for Your Favourite Jazz Musicians

 1 Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole
4
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.

 2 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.

 3 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.

 4 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

 5 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.

 6 Ralph Tresvant

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

 7 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.

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 8 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

 9 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.

 10 Esperanza Spalding

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

 11 Wynton Marsalis

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

 12 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

 13 Michael McCary

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

 14 Hugh Masekela

Hugh Masekela
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Famous As: Trumpeter, Composer, Jazz musician
Birthdate: April 4, 1939
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Witbank

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.

 15 Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix
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Famous As: Singer & Musician
Birthdate: November 27, 1942
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, United States
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.

 16 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

 17 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

 18 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

 19 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

 20 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

 21 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

 22 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

 23 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

 24 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

 25 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

 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 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

 28 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

 29 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

 30 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

 31 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

 32 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

 33 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

 34 Nathan East

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

 35 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

 36 Ron Carter

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

 37 Charlie Christian

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

 38 William Onyeabor

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

 39 Cleo Laine

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

 40 Ramsey Lewis

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

 41 Terence Blanchard

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

 42 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

 43 Christian Scott

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

 44 Philly Joe Jones

Philly Joe Jones
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Famous As: American drummer
Birthdate: July 15, 1923
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
Died: August 30, 1985

 45 Mary Lou Williams

Mary Lou Williams
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Famous As: American jazz pianist
Birthdate: May 8, 1910
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Died: May 28, 1981

 46 Mercer Ellington

Mercer Ellington
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: March 11, 1919
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States
Died: February 8, 1996

 47 Ellis Marsalis Jr.

Ellis Marsalis Jr.
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Famous As: Pianist
Birthdate: November 14, 1934
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Died: April 1, 2020

 48 Christian McBride

Christian McBride
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Famous As: Jazz musician
Birthdate: May 31, 1972
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Philadelphia

 49 Tommy Lee Flanagan

Tommy Lee Flanagan
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Famous As: Jazz Pianist
Birthdate: March 16, 1930
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Conant Gardens, Detroit, Michigan, United States
Died: November 16, 2001

 50 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