The Most Influential Jazz Musicians

Here are 6 of the most influential Jazz Musicians of all time. Enjoy the greatness!

Charles Mingus

Charles Mingus was a famous African American jazz double bassist. Not only that, he was also a composer, pianist, and bandleader. Mingus was an accomplished musician born in Nogales, Arizona. He grew up in the city of Watts in California. He gained a great deal of his musical influence from church. He gained inspiration listening to Duke Ellington and studied with H. Rheinshagen, who led the New York Philharmonic at the time. Mingus gained touring experience with Lionel Hampton, Kid Ory, and Louis Armstrong. Some of his most ingenious works include “The Black Saint”, “The Sinner Lady”, “Pithecanthropus Erectus”, and a fusion of Jazz and Cumbia to name a few. Charles Mingus lived from 1922 until 1979.

Mary Lou Williams

The musical career of Mary Lou Williams was vast. She was born in 1910 and passed in 1981. With each approaching decade, Williams adopted different styles; from modal to avant-garde. Mary Lou Williams has even dipped into classical music with the song “Zodiac Suite”. The world of classical music welcomed her with open arms; the infamous musician has played at Carnegie Hall backed by an orchestra. Williams possessed several talents including being a pianist, composer, and even served in the capacity of a mentor. Some would argue that she is one of the most important women in the history of jazz.

Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole was an African American pioneering musician of the era of Swing. Not only that, he was also a highly influential pianist and group leader. Nat King Cole found great success in his vocal talents, specializing in light swing and ballads. He began his foray into music as a 12 year old in church who played the organ and sang. Cole began touring with a revue and then went to L.A. to perform in jazz clubs. Regarding being a pianist, he developed his own syncopated style with the piano, highlighted by melodic phrasing. Nat King Cole had a long and storied music career; he lived from 1919 until 1965.

Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock is known for growing his style along with changing times. Hancock has become infamous for Iconic songs such as “Rockit” and “Watermelon Man”. Hancock is the recipient of numerous Grammy Awards as well as an Academy Award. He was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1940. He delved into music at an early age of seven years old. After he played with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as a young teenager, Mozart in particular. For a somewhat brief period of his life, Hancock attended Grinnell College for the purpose of studying electrical engineering. However, Hancock never ignored his musical calling. He continued to compose and even relocated to New York to share performances with Donald Byrd, the trumpeter.

Miles Davis

Miles Davis is certainly considered to be one of the greatest musicians of his time. Davis was born in 1926 in Illinois. He was introduced to the trumpet when he was 13 years old by his father. Elwood Buchanan, a friend of his father tutored Davis and supported his quickly developing talent. Buchanan influenced Miles Davis by teaching him to play the trumpet without vibrato. At the age of 17, Miles Davis was called upon by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie to go on stage and replace the sick trumpet player in the band. Once he reached the age of 18 he moved to New York City to begin his music career in jazz. Davis went on to accomplish a great deal in the world of music before passing in 1991; he received eight Grammy Awards recognizing his superior musical skills.

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis has done a great deal to expand the Jazz vocabulary. He has performed a wide range of music with chamber ensembles, quartets, and big bands. He is considered one of the greatest composers and musicians in the world. Marsalis has a notable sound, recognize by its clear depth, style, and emotion. Marsalis’ superior skill expressed itself early on in life. Marsalis began performing at the age of eight years old and created a band in 1981 which he played with for 15 years consecutively.

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