Jazz is a form of musical style that was conceived in the early 20th century amongst the black community in the United States of America. Jazz is a cross between African and European music styles and later on also incorporated American popular music. Jazz artists, both past and present, have contributed to the music industry and have given its audience great music to enjoy.
1. Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong was an African-American born jazz musician and singer. He was born in New Orleans to a very poor family. His grandparents were slaves, and his father left them when he was still a child. As a young boy, Louis Armstrong had to earn money to help keep his mother out of prostitution, but his efforts were futile. He also attended the Fisk School for Boys where he first had a taste of music. He was also the first African-American artist to penetrate the highly divided entertainment industry at a time when America was racially prejudiced. He has been a great contributing factor in the entertainment industry as he did not only flourish in the jazz genre but also later in his career was able to influence popular music as well.
2. Ray Charles
Ray Charles was the voice behind the hit songs ‘I Got A Woman,’ ‘This Little Girl Of Mine, ‘ ‘A Fool For You,’ ‘Hit The Road Jack,’ and many more. At the age of five, he started losing his sight, and by the time he was seven years old, Ray Charles was completely blind. His blindness was believed to have been caused by glaucoma. His career spanned from 1946 to 2004, and he has been regarded by the music industry as one artist whose voice was easily and highly recognized all over the United States of America. He was also recognized by the State of Georgia as one of the first members of its Music Hall of Fame and his song ‘Georgia on My Mind’ became the official song of the State of Georgia.
3. Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald, also known as the Queen of Jazz, was an American-born jazz singer. She was said to have idolized Connee Boswell of the Boswell Sisters after her mother brought home a recording of the group. A song she co-wrote ‘A-Tisket, A-Tasket’ gave her prominence in the music scene. Ella Fitzgerald, whose voice ranges three octaves, is also famous for her scat singing. In her career that spanned 61 years, she won 13 Grammy Awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1967. She was also awarded the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Medal of Honor Award, National Medal of Art, Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the prestigious USC ‘Magnus Opus’ Award among others.
4. Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday, born Eleanora Harris, was an American jazz singer who, according to John Bush, a critic, ‘changed the art of American pop vocals forever.’ Billie Holiday was most noted for her rendition of the songs ‘God Bless the Child’ and ‘Lady Sings the Blues.’ These songs became jazz standards, and she also became famous for her hit songs ‘Easy Living,’ ‘Good Morning Heartache,’ and ‘Strange Fruit.’ Earlier in her youth, Holiday was raped and became a prostitute together with her mother. Both were sent to prison, and Holiday was released at the age of 14. Her singing career started in Harlem singing at nightclubs. Billie Holiday died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 44.
5. Wes Montgomery
Wes Montgomery was a jazz guitarist who many try to follow as his style helped define the jazz guitar genre. He came from a musically inclined family; in fact, he and his brothers have recorded a number of songs and called themselves The Montgomery Brothers. Though he knew how to play a 4-string tenor guitar since he was 12 years old, he only learned to play the 6-stringed guitar at the age of 20, and this he learned by simply listening to the music. Many jazz guitarists affirmed that Montgomery influenced theirs and other modern jazz guitarists. His success as a commercial artist, however, was cut short when he died of a heart attack in his Indianapolis home on June 15, 1968.
6. Tony Bennett
Anthony Dominick Benedetto, or better known in the entertainment world as Tony Bennett, is an Italian-American singer. He is known to sing popular music, show tunes, standards, and jazz. Not only is he a talented singer but also a great painter. He founded the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in New York City. Tony Bennett was made popular in 1951 by his song ‘Because of You,’ which he recorded under Columbia Records. His song ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’ remains his most popular song to date. He has, so far, received 17 Grammy Awards that includes a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001.
7. Diana Krall
Diana Krall born in Nanaimo, British Columbia is a Canadian jazz singer and pianist. She was cited as the second jazz artist of the 2000-2009 decade by Billboard magazine. Diana Krall’s first album was released in 1993. Her third album ‘All For You: A Dedication to the Nat King Cole Trio’ was in the Billboard jazz charts for 70 weeks and was nominated for a Grammy Award. She had been in a series of concerts with Tony Bennett and did an album with Ray Charles. Among the honors awarded to Krall are the following: Order of British Columbia, an honorary Ph.D. for Fine Arts from the University of Victoria, inducted into the Canadian Walk of Fame, made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and the Nanaimo Harbourfront Plaza was renamed Diana Krall Plaza in 2008.
8. Doc Cheatham
Adolphus Anthony Cheatham, or Doc Cheatham, was born in Nashville, Tennessee. He was a jazz trumpeter, singer, and bandleader. He was supposed to be a pharmacist, but the call to play music was much stronger. He played in Nashville’s African-American Vaudeville Theater at the start of his career. He was greatly influenced by Henry Busse, Johnny Dunn, but it was King Oliver who made a great impact on Doc Cheatham, and a year after, he met Louis Armstrong who became a lifelong inspiration. It was highly notable that Cheatham made waves in his career at the ripe age of 70 and continued on working until his death 11 days before his 92nd birthday.
9. Jimmy Dorsey
Jimmy Dorsey, better known as JD, was an American-born jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, trumpeter, composer, and big band leader. He was born in Pennsylvania February 29, 1904. His father was a music teacher, and his brother was also a musician. His band, Dorsey’s Novelty Six, was among the first jazz bands to be broadcast. ‘You let Me Down,’ JD’s first hit record, was released in 1935. After World War II, Jimmy Dorsey and his band remained one of the most- sought-after big bands mainly due to his foresight of revising his music to conform with the current trend although, at that time, the big band business was entering its decline. Among his famous works are: ‘Besame Mucho,’ ‘Is It True What They Say About Dixie?’ ‘Maria Elena,’ ‘Green Eyes’ and ‘Amapola.’
10. Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie, considered as one of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time, was born in Cheraw, South Carolina. He was not only a jazz trumpeter but also a composer, band leader, and singer. The music of Roy Eldridge made Dizzy Gillespie want to become a jazz musician. His professional career started in 1935 with the Frank Fairfax Orchestra after which he has joined several bands, and in 1945 he decided to play with a small combo. Tragically, in the year 1948, Dizzy was involved in an accident that left him unable to hit the B-flat above high C. He also became involved in the movement of Afro-Cuban music which aimed to bring forth more elements of the Afro-Latin American music into mainstream jazz and pop music. Dizzy Gillespie was inducted into the Down Beat magazine’s Jazz Hall of Fame in 1960.