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Biographies of Jazz Leaders and Legends

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The subjects of these thumbnail sketches include many of the innovative giants of the past and some of the great veterans (all of whom are at least sixty) on the current jazz scene. This list could easily be several times longer. Also included are a recommended recording or two for most of the artists, augmenting the ones listed after each chapter.

Abrams, Muhal Richard (1930–). Abrams began his career in the 1950s as a hard bop pianist, but developed into one of the key leaders of the Chicago avant-garde. He led the Experimental Band during 1961–1965, was one of the main founders of the AACM, and has since blossomed as both an avant-garde pianist and composer.

Recordings: Levels and Degrees of Light (Delmark, 413), Rejoicing with the Light (Black Saint, 120 071)

Adams, Pepper (1930–1986). At first a major part of the Detroit jazz scene, Adams moved to New York in 1958 and became recognized as one of the top baritone saxophonists, a hard bop player with a guttural tone and a passionate swinging style.

Recording: 10 to 4 at the Five Spot (Original Jazz Classics, 31)

Adderley, Cannonball (1928–1975). A highly influential altoist with an exuberant tone and a major bandleader, Adderley was one of the most accessible jazz musicians. His quintet/sextet of 1959–1966 was one of the great bands.

Recordings: Things Are Getting Better (Original Jazz Classics, 032), Mercy, Mercy, Mercy (Blue Note/Capitol, 29915)

Adderley, Nat (1931–2000). The brother of Cannonball Adderley played cornet in a style influenced at times by Miles Davis. He was content to be in Cannonball’s shadow and proved to be a talented songwriter who wrote “Work Song” and “The Old Country.”

Recording: Work Song (Original Jazz Classics, 363)

Akiyoshi, Toshiko (1929–). A Bud Powell-inspired pianist, Akiyoshi has led and arranged for her own big band in Los Angeles (1972–1981) and New York (1981–2003). Her inventive arrangements have also paid tribute to her Asian heritage.

Recording: Carnegie Hall Concert (Columbia, 48805)

Aleman Oscar (1909–1980). Aleman had a sound and style on guitar very similar to that of Django Reinhardt. He played in Paris in the 1930s and his native Argentina after 1941.

Recording: Swing Guitar Masterpieces 1937–1957 (Acoustic Disc, 29)

Alexander, Monty (1944–). A brilliant pianist, Alexander was initially influenced by Oscar Peterson but developed his own style, inspired by both straight-ahead jazz and the music of his native Jamaica.

Recording: Jamboree: Monty Alexander’s Ivory and Steel (Concord Jazz, 1024)

Allen, Henry “Red” (1908–1967). One of the last of the major New Orleans trumpeters to emerge during the 1920s, Allen had an advanced style but was mostly heard in swing and trad settings during his long and productive career.

Recording: World on a String (Bluebird, 2497)

Allison, Mose (1927–). A fine pianist and a personable down-home singer influenced by country blues as well as bop, Allison is most renowned for his insightful and often humorous lyrics.

Recording: I Don’t Worry about a Thing (Rhino/Atlantic, 71417)

Almeida, Laurindo (1917–1995). Almeida helped introduce the Brazilian guitar to jazz, working with Stan Kenton in the late 1940s, recording with Bud Shank in the 1950s, and having a lengthy solo career.

Recording: Artistry in Rhythm (Concord Jazz, 4238)

Ammons, Albert (1907–1949). One of the major boogie-woogie pianists of the 1930s and 1940s, Ammons was a powerhouse.

Recording: 1936–1939 (Classics, 715)

Ammons, Gene (1925–1974). A highly versatile tenor saxophonist with a huge tone, Ammons (the son of Albert Ammons) could play bebop with Sonny Stitt and caress ballads with soul. He was at his best in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Recording: Boss Tenor (Original Jazz Classics, 297)

Armstrong, Louis (1901–1971). The most beloved of all jazz musicians, both as a trumpeter and as a vocalist, Armstrong permanently changed jazz with his phrasing and ability to “tell a story.” Whether with the Hot Fives in the 1920s, his swing-era big band, or his later All-Stars, Satch was the real king of jazz.

Recordings: Vol. 6: St. Louis Blues (Columbia/Legacy, 46996), Satch Plays Fats (Columbia/Legacy, 40378)

Art Ensemble of Chicago (1966–2004). Comprised of trumpeter Lester Bowie, saxophonists Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman, bassist Malachi Favors, and drummer Don Moye, the Art Ensemble of Chicago always seemed to have fun on stage, no matter how forbidding their brand of avant-garde jazz was that year. They returned space and dynamics to free jazz.

Recording: Nice Guys (ECM, 827 876)

Ayler, Albert (1936–1970). One of the most radical of the free jazz players, Ayler had a giant tone on tenor and reached back to the prehistoric era of jazz in his use of simple melodies.

Recording: Spirits Rejoice (ESP, 1020)

Bailey, Derek (1932–). Bailey uses his guitar to make sounds and noise, not bothering with melodies, harmonies, or rhythms. No other guitarist has ever sounded like him.

Recording: Han (Incus, 02)

Bailey, Mildred (1907–1951). One of the top jazz singers of the 1930s, Bailey combined a little girl’s voice with a blues feeling and swinging phrasing.

Recording: The Rockin’ Chair Lady (GRP/Decca, 644)

Baker, Chet (1929–1988). In the 1950s, Baker was the epitome of cool with his romantic middle-register trumpet solos and vulnerable (if shaky) vocals. His unapologetic abuse of heroin took away his Hollywood looks, but during his last decade, Baker was still capable of playing trumpet at his very best.

Recording: My Favourite Songs Vols. 1-2 (Enja, 79600)

Barretto, Ray (1929–). In the 1950s Ray Barretto was among the first to play conga on straight-ahead jazz dates. His career as a bandleader has included bugalu dance hits, salsa, and top-notch Afro-Cuban jazz.

Recording: My Summertime (Owl, 35830)

Barron, Kenny (1943–). Always underrated, Kenny Barron played with the bands of Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, Yusef Lateef, and Ron Carter, becoming one of the finest modern mainstream pianists in jazz.

Recording: Wanton Spirit (Verve, 314 522 364)

Bartz, Gary (1940–). Ranging in his career from borderline avant-garde jazz to crossover, altoist Bartz sounds at his best when playing advanced straight-ahead jazz. He is one of the underrated greats.

Recording: West 42nd Street (Candid, 79049)

Basie, Count (1904–1984). As a pianist, Basie realigned the function of the rhythm section with his light touch. As a bandleader from 1935 on, he led the definitive swinging institution, an orchestra that still tours the world decades after his death.

Recordings: Count Basie at Newport (Verve, 833 766), Atomic Mr. Basie (Roulette, 59025)

Bauza, Mario (1911–1993). The musical director of Machito’s orchestra during 1941–1976, Bauza was largely responsible for the mixture of jazz with Afro-Cuban rhythms that resulted in Latin jazz. He also led his own impressive big band during his final decade.

Recording: 944 Columbus (Messidor, 15828)

Bechet, Sidney (1897–1959). The first great horn soloist to emerge on records, Sidney Bechet (originally a clarinetist) played the soprano sax with passion, intensity, and plenty of vibrato in trad settings. In later years he moved to France where he became a national celebrity.

Recording: Paris Jazz Concert (RTE, 1003)

Beiderbecke, Bix (1903–1931). A cornetist with a beautiful tone and a very fertile imagination, Bix Beiderbecke’s fortunes rose and fell with the 1920s. Every solo he played during his short career is well worth hearing.

Recording: At the Jazz Band Ball (Columbia, 46175)

Bellson, Louie (1924–). A spectacular drum soloist who is also happy to play quietly in a trio, Bellson was always full of taste and class.

Recording: Live from New York (Telarc, 83334)

Benson, George (1943–). Originally a fiery and soulful guitarist, Benson gained pop fame with his crooning on “This Masquerade” in 1976. He is still capable of playing memorable guitar solos.

Recording: Tenderly (Warner Bros., 25907)

Berigan, Bunny (1908–1942). One of the most colorful of all trumpeters, Berigan took plenty of chances during his solos in the 1930s and usually succeeded. He had a beautiful tone in all ranges of his horn and made “I Can’t Get Started” into a standard.

Recording: The Complete Bunny Berigan, Vol. 1 (Bluebird, 5584)

Berry, Chu (1910–1941). One of the up-and-coming tenor saxophonists of the 1930s, Chu Berry was influenced by Coleman Hawkins but developed his own sound with Cab Calloway’s band before his premature death.

Recording: 1937–1941 (Classics, 784)

Bigard, Barney (1906–1980). Originally a tenor saxophonist with King Oliver, Bigard developed into a distinctive clarinetist who added a great deal to the bands of Duke Ellington (1927–1942) and Louis Armstrong (1947–1955 and 1960–1961).

Recording: Bucket’s Got a Hole in It (Delmark, 211)

Blackwell, Ed (1929–1992). Famous for being one of the drummers (along with Billy Higgins) in the Ornette Coleman Quartet, Blackwell fit in perfectly while never discarding his New Orleans heritage.

Recording: Walls-Bridges (Black Lion, 120153)

Blake, Eubie (1883–1983). An early ragtime pianist-composer who with lyricist-singer Noble Sissle was a pioneering black composer for Broadway shows in the 1920s, Blake survived long enough to make a comeback in his late eighties. He was the last living link to the ragtime era and a delightful entertainer.

Recording: The 86 Years of Eubie Blake (Columbia, 22223, 2 LP set)

Blakey, Art (1919–1990). An explosive drummer from the bebop era, Blakey’s prominence as the leader of the Jazz Messengers and his nurturing of younger hard bop musicians became legendary.

Recordings: The Freedom Rider (Blue Note, 21287), Caravan (Original Jazz Classics, 038)

Blanton, Jimmy (1918–1942). During his short life, Jimmy Blanton revolutionized the bass in jazz. While with Duke Ellington, Blanton’s solos and work behind soloists and ensembles were decades ahead of their time.

Recording: Duke Ellington—Solos, Duets and Trios (Bluebird, 2179)

Bley, Carla (1938–). A pianist/organist, Bley is most significant as an arranger who was not shy to display her broad sense of humor and a big bandleader.

Recording: European Tour (ECM, 831 830)

Bley, Paul (1932–). A subtle but continually creative pianist, Bley explores free jazz quietly, using space and dynamics and offering an alternative approach from Cecil Taylor’s constant fire.

Recording: The Nearness of You (Steeplechase, 31246)

Bluiett, Hamiet (1940–). An avant-garde innovator on the baritone sax, Bluiett can screech out high notes with ease, yet his deep, giant tone acts as a perfect anchor for the World Saxophone Quartet.

Recording: Young Warrior, Old Warrior (Mapleshade, 2932)

Blythe, Arthur (1940–). Combining together a soulful sound with an explorative style, altoist Blythe has always been distinctive and constantly willing to stretch himself.

Recording: Illusions (Koch, 7869)

Bolden, Buddy (1877–1931). The symbolic founder of jazz, the unrecorded New Orleans legend led a band as early as 1895 but only had a short reign before insanity led to him being committed in 1906.

Boswell Sisters (1925–1936). One of the great jazz vocal groups, Connie, Helvetia, and Martha Boswell performed sophisticated arrangements in the early 1930s, had wonderful voices, and scatted up a storm.

Recording: The Boswell Sisters Collection, Vol. 2 (Collector’s Classics, 3008)

Bowie, Lester (1941–1999). Trumpeter with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Bowie was also a great humorist who enjoyed poking fun at various musical styles. His Brass Fantasy played jazz versions of unlikely pop and rock songs.

Recording: The Fire This Time (In & Out, 7019)

Braff, Ruby (1927–2003). A major and distinctive cornetist who chose to play small-group swing rather than modern jazz, Braff never played a passionless note. He recorded scores of exciting albums through the years.

Recording: Live at the Regettabar (Arbors, 19131)

Brookmeyer, Bob (1929–). As a cool jazz valve trombonist (along with Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, and Clark Terry) and as a composer-arranger for large orchestras, Brookmeyer has always excelled.

Recording: The Dual Role of Bob Brookmeyer (Original Jazz Classics, 1729)

Brotzmann, Peter (1941–). Few tenor saxophonists have ever been as passionate as Brotzmann, a firebrand who plays remarkably intense atonal solos.

Recording: Machine Gun (FMP, 024)

Brown, Clifford (1930–1956). A superb trumpeter with a beautiful tone who never seemed to play an unworthy note, Brownie was one of the all-time greats, despite having a tragically brief life.

Recording: The Best of Max Roach and Clifford Brown in Concert (GNP/Crescendo, 18)

Brown, Lawrence (1907–1988). Duke Ellington’s trombonist during 1932–1951 and 1960–1970, Brown had impressive technique, his own sound, and a mastery of the swing vocabulary.

Recording: Slide Trombone (Verve, 314 559 930)

Brown, Oscar, Jr. (1926–). A dramatic singer with a strong expressive voice, Oscar Brown Jr. has also proven to be a genius as a lyricist. His lyrics for “Work Song,” “Dat Dere,” and “Afro Blue” are only three of his gems.

Recording: Sin & Soul … And Then Some (Columbia/Legacy, 64994)

Brown, Ray (1926–2002). Whether touring with the Oscar Peterson Trio or leading his own combos, Brown defined the sound of the acoustic bass for over five decades.

Recording: Don’t Get Sassy (Telarc, 83368)

Brubeck, Dave (1920–). Leader of quartets since the early 1950s (the one with altoist Paul Desmond was most famous) and a master of polyrhythms, polytonality, and playing in different time signatures, Dave Brubeck has been popular for over a half century without ever compromising his music.

Recording: 40th Anniversary Tour of the U.K. (Telarc, 83440)

Burrell, Kenny (1931–). As tasteful a straight-ahead guitarist as one will ever hear, Burrell is at his best when inspired by fiery players, especially Jimmy Smith.

Recording: Midnight Blue (Blue Note, 46399)

Burton, Gary (1943–). A master at utilizing four mallets on the vibes, Burton sometimes sounds like two or three vibraphonists at once. In addition to his work leading groups (including an early fusion band with Larry Coryell), Burton has long been a significant educator at Berklee.

Recording: Dreams So Real (ECM, 833329)

Byas, Don (1912–1972). One of the great tenor saxophonists of the 1940s, Don Byas’ decision to move permanently to Europe in 1946 cut short his fame but probably lengthened his life. His knowledge of chords was only second to his idol, Coleman Hawkins.

Recording: 1944–1945 (Classics, 882)

Byrd, Charlie (1925–1999). Byrd’s mastery of Brazilian music caused him to stand out from most other guitarists of the 1960s, and his introduction of bossa nova to American audiences with Stan Getz on Jazz Samba made him immortal.

Recording: Latin Byrd (Milestone, 47005)

Byrd, Donald (1932–). An up-and-coming hard bop trumpeter in the 1950s, Byrd was at his prime during the following decade before succumbing to the lure of electronic funk in the 1970s.

Recording: Byrd in Flight (Blue Note, 52435)

Calloway, Cab (1907–1994). Mr. Hi-De-Ho, Calloway became famous for “Minnie the Moocher” in 1931. His exuberant scatting, dancing, and showmanship made him one of the most popular entertainers ever, in addition to being an important bandleader in the 1930s and 1940s.

Recording: Are You Hep to the Jive (Columbia/Legacy, 57645)

Carmichael, Hoagy (1899–1981). Of all of the major songwriters of the 1930s and 1940s, Carmichael had the closest association to jazz, playing jazz piano whenever he had a chance. Among the many standards that he composed are “Star Dust,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “The Nearness of You,” “Lazy River,” and “Skylark.”

Recording: Stardust and Much More (Bluebird, 8333)

Carney, Harry (1910–1974). Duke Ellington’s baritone saxophonist for forty-seven years, Carney virtually introduced the instrument to jazz, and he never declined in importance. Virtually all of his recordings were made with Ellington.

Carter, Benny (1907–2003). As altoist, trumpeter, arranger, composer, and bandleader, Benny Carter was rarely equaled during his seven-decade career. No wonder he was nicknamed “The King.”

Recordings: All of Me (Bluebird, 3000), Cosmopolite: The Oscar Peterson Verve Sessions (Verve, 521 673)

Carter, Betty (1930–1998). Although a bebopper at heart, Carter’s vocals stretched way beyond the style by the 1960s, and she never played it safe. She remains one of the main influences on jazz singers of today.

Recording: I Can’t Help It (GRP, 114)

Carter, John (1929–1991). Carter brought the clarinet into the avant-garde, playing free jazz on the swing-oriented instrument. Late in life he created a five-album musical depiction of the story of African Americans in the United States.

Recording: Dauwhe (Black Saint, 120057)

Carter, Ron (1937–). Bassist Carter has performed on a countless number of recordings and settings but will always be best known for his membership in the Miles Davis Quintet of 1964–1968.

Recording: Mr. Bow Tie (Blue Note, 35407)

Chaloff, Serge (1923–1957). Chaloff preceded Gerry Mulligan as a major light-toned baritonist, playing with Woody Herman’s Second Herd. Drug problems cut short his life, but he left a few major recordings behind.

Recording: Blue Serge (Blue Note, 94505)

Chambers, Paul (1935–1969). A major bass soloist, Chambers was greatly in demand from the time that he joined the Miles Davis Quintet in 1955. He also worked extensively with the Wynton Kelly Trio and had the song “Mr. P.C.” named after him by John Coltrane.

Recording: Bass on Top (Blue Note, 46533)

Cheatham, Doc (1905–1997). After decades of obscure work as a lead trumpeter in big bands and Latin groups, Cheatham emerged as a major swing soloist while in his mid-seventies, still hitting high notes at age ninety-one.

Recording: The Fabulous (Parkwood, 104)

Cherry, Don (1936–1995). Ornette Coleman’s pocket cornetist, Cherry developed into a world traveler both geographically and musically, exploring world music during the latter part of his career.

Recording: Art Deco (A&M, 5258)

Christian, Charlie (1916–1942). The first giant of the electric guitar, Christian’s phrases on his recordings with the Benny Goodman Sextet became the vocabulary of the jazz guitar for the next twenty-five years.

Recording: Radioland 1939–1941 (Fuel, 2000-061 167)

Christy, June (1925–1990). After coming to fame with Stan Kenton, Christy’s string of vocal albums for Capitol in the 1950s (most notably Something Cool ) made her one of the most popular jazz singers of the era.

Recording: The Misty Miss Christy (Blue Note, 98452)

Clarke, Kenny (1914–1985). Clarke was the first drummer to shift the timekeeping role from the bass drum to the ride cymbal, thereby changing the sound of the rhythm section from the bop era on. He was on many sessions both in the United States and Europe and co-led a notable big band with pianist Francy Boland.

Recording: Handle with Care (Koch, 8534)

Clayton, Buck (1911–1991). A major trumpet soloist with Count Basie’s band of 1936–1942, Clayton remained a vital swing player until bad health forced Page 255  his retirement after 1967. Clayton’s string of jam session albums in the 1950s was notable as were his arranging skills, even in the years after he stopped playing.

Recording: Baden, Switzerland 1966 (Sackville, 2028)

Cohn, Al (1925–1988). Cohn was equally skilled as a cool-toned tenor saxophonist and an arranger-composer. He made many recordings and sounded particularly joyful when teamed with Zoot Sims.

Recording: Broadway (Original Jazz Classics, 1812)

Cole, Nat King (1917–1965). Originally one of the major swing pianists and leader of the King Cole Trio, by 1950 Cole was on his way to becoming a very popular crooner who occasionally would remind listeners that he was also a great pianist.

Recording: Jazz Encounters (Capitol, 96693)

Coleman, Ornette (1930–). When altoist Coleman arrived in New York with his quartet in 1959, he caused shock waves throughout the jazz world as musicians found they had to reassess their own playing. Whether as one of the founders of free jazz, playing free funk with Prime Time in the 1970s, Coleman is always a true original.

Recordings: Ornette on Tenor (Rhino, 71455), New York Is Now (Blue Note, 84287)

Coltrane, John (1926–1967). Coltrane’s accomplishments are so vast (developing a new sound on tenor, reintroducing the soprano sax to jazz, mastering chordal improvisation, playing endlessly over vamps, and exploring passionate new sounds) that it is difficult to believe that his playing prime was less than a dozen years.

Recordings: Lush Life (Original Jazz Classics, 131), Ole Coltrane (Rhino/Atlantic, 79965), Sun Ship (Impulse, 167)

Condon, Eddie (1905–1973). A propagandist for freewheeling Dixieland, Condon was a creditable rhythm guitarist and a superb bandleader and organizer.

Recording: The Town Hall Concerts, Vol. 2 (Jazzology, 1003/1004)

Corea, Chick (1941–). A master on both acoustic and electric keyboards, Corea has excelled in many different settings through the years ranging from three versions of Return to Forever, the Elektric Band, the Akoustic Band, and all-star groups to working with Miles Davis.

Recordings: My Spanish Heart (Polydor, 543 303), Three Quartets (Stretch, 9002)

Coryell, Larry (1943–). The pioneering fusion guitarist, Coryell has also explored bebop, world music, and the acoustic guitar.

Recording: Monk, Trane, Miles & Me (High Note, 7028)

Crawford, Hank (1934–). A soulful altoist, Crawford influenced David Sanborn and the later smooth saxophonists, but he has always retained a closer tie to straight-ahead and soul jazz, making a series of fine records with organist Jimmy McGriff.

Recording: Steppin’ Up (Milestone, 9153)

Crosby, Bing (1903–1977). Famous ever since the early 1930s, Crosby brought jazz phrasing into pop music, and his warm baritone voice saved listeners from the deluge of boy tenors. He always loved early jazz and was proud of his association with Paul Whiteman and Bix Beiderbecke.

Recording: And Some Jazz Friends (GRP/Decca, 603)

Dameron, Tadd (1917–1965). One of the top arrangers and composers of the classic bebop era, Dameron was overly modest about his piano playing. Among his compositions were “Hot House,” “If You Could See Me Now,” “Our Delight,” and “Good Bait.”

Recording: The Magic Touch of Tadd Dameron (Original Jazz Classics, 143)

Daniels, Eddie (1941–). A very good tenor saxophonist, Eddie Daniels chose to stick exclusively to clarinet for a decade to establish his reputation as the best on that instrument. His recordings show that the clarinet does fit well into modern straight-ahead jazz, at least when he is the clarinetist.

Recording: Under the Influence (GRP, 9716)

Davis, Eddie “Lockjaw” (1922–1986). A tough-toned tenor, Lockjaw was equally effective on roaring up-tempo tunes and on passionate renditions of ballads. He was closely associated with both Count Basie and Harry “Sweets” Edison and co-led a notable two-tenor quintet with Johnny Griffin in the early 1960s.

Recording: Swingin’ till the Girls Come Home (Steeplechase, 31058)

Davis, Miles (1926–1991). Whether it was bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, modal music, the avant-garde, fusion, or pop/crossover, no other musician was as prominent in as many different styles as trumpeter Miles Davis. In addition, his abilities as a talent scout ranked with those of Art Blakey.

Recordings: Miles Davis, Vol. 1 (Blue Note, 32611), Milestones (Columbia/Legacy, 85203), E.S.P. (Columbia/Legacy, 65683)

Davison, Wild Bill (1906–1989). The perfect Dixieland cornetist/trumpeter, Wild Bill Davison’s solos were always full of personality, ranging from sarcasm to sentimentality. Whether playing with Eddie Condon in Europe or with his own pickup groups, Davison showed how exciting trad jazz should really sound.

Recording: The Commodore Master Takes (GRP, 405)

DeFranco, Buddy (1923–). The definitive bebop clarinetist, DeFranco made his instrument sound easy to play during encounters with the finest jazz musicians. Until the rise of Eddie Daniels, no post-swing clarinetist was in his league.

Recording: Like Someone in Love (Progressive, 7014)

DeJohnette, Jack (1942–). More than just one of jazz’s finest drummers, DeJohnette has led several major post-bop bands and is a fine pianist and composer.

Recording: Special Edition (ECM, 827 694)

Desmond, Paul (1924–1977). Desmond’s beautiful floating tone on alto, a contrast to Dave Brubeck’s heavy chordings, was always a joy to hear. He was subtle, witty, always distinctive, and a classy player.

Recording: Two of a Mind (RCA, 64019)

Dodds, Baby (1898–1959). An important pioneer in jazz drumming of New Orleans and the 1920s, Dodds could say so much with just a cymbal crash. He can be heard at his best on recordings with Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong’s Hot Seven, and his brother Johnny Dodds.

Dodds, Johnny (1892–1940). Arguably the finest clarinetist of the 1920s, Dodds had a cutting tone, a real feel for the blues, and the ability to hold his own with Louis Armstrong on the classic Hot Five recordings.

Recordings: 1926 (Classics, 589), 1927 (Classics, 603)

Dolphy, Eric (1928–1964). Dolphy had his own very unusual voice on alto sax, bass clarinet (which he introduced to jazz as a solo instrument), and flute, sounding utterly unique. He worked with Charles Mingus and John Coltrane and recorded quite as a bit as a leader from 1960 to 1964 before his early death.

Recordings: Outward Bound (Original Jazz Classics, 22), Vintage Dolphy (GM, 3005)

Donaldson, Lou (1926–). Donaldson has always emphasized the blues and soul in his boppish solos. Influenced most by Charlie Parker, Donaldson found his own voice and became a popular figure in soul jazz.

Recording: Birdseed (Milestone, 9198)

Dorough, Bob (1923–). A talented songwriter who wrote “Devil May Care,” “I’ve Got Just about Everything” and the lyrics to Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite,” Dorough is also a personable singer and a fine pianist.

Recording: Just about Everything (Evidence, 22094)

Dorsey, Jimmy (1904–1957). One of the top altoists and clarinetists of the 1920s, Dorsey became a major big bandleader in the 1930s. His orchestra’s most popular records featured singers Helen O’Connell and Bob Eberle in the 1940s, but JD never lost his talents as a soloist.

Recording: Contrasts (GRP/Decca, 626)

Dorsey, Tommy (1905–1956). Jimmy’s younger brother, TD was renowned for his pretty tone on trombone and his breath control. His big bands were quite popular from 1935 on, with his sidemen including Bunny Berigan, Ziggy Elman, Buddy DeFranco, and many singers including Frank Sinatra.

Recording: Seventeen Number Ones (RCA, 9973)

Eckstine, Billy (1914–1993). Eckstine’s baritone voice was quite influential in the 1940s and 1950s as he became a big success in middle-of-the-road pop music, but he will be always be remembered most fondly as the leader of the first bebop big band, an organization that he kept together as long as possible.

Recording: Basie and Eckstine, Inc. (Blue Note, 28636)

Edison, Harry “Sweets” (1915–1999). Trumpeter Edison, like his longtime employer Count Basie, got the most mileage of one note. His swing style, open to the influence of bop, enlivened a countless number of record sessions in a sixty-year period.

Recording: Edison’s Lights (Original Jazz Classics, 804)

Edwards, Teddy (1924–2003). Underrated due to his decision to spend his life living in the Los Angeles area, Edwards was one of the great tenors of the bebop era and the half century that followed.

Recording: Teddy’s Ready (Original Jazz Classics, 748)

Eldridge, Roy (1911–1989). One of the most competitive of all jazzmen, Eldridge had a crackling sound on trumpet along with a harmonically advanced swing style that influenced Dizzy Gillespie. Eldridge came of age in the 1930s and made some of his finest recordings in the 1950s, including a set in which he matched wits with Gillespie.

Recording: Montreux 1977 (Original Jazz Classics, 373)

Ellington, Duke (1899–1974). The most productive of all jazz musicians, Duke Ellington would have been very significant if all he had done was lead his orchestra for forty-nine years. Add to that his piano playing (which evolved from stride to quite modern), innovative arrangements, thousands of compositions, and ability to gather individualists and somehow blend them into a recognizable ensemble sound, and one is talking about a genius.

Recordings: Ellington Uptown (Columbia/Legacy, 87066), The Far East Suite—Special Mix (Bluebird, 66551)

Evans, Bill (1929–1980). Evans changed the way that the piano sounds in jazz. His chord voicings and the way his trios worked as near equals are still extremely influential.

Recordings: Sunday at the Village Vanguard (Original Jazz Classics, 140), Paris Concert, Edition One (Blue Note, 28672)

Evans, Gil (1912–1988). Most famous for his collaborations with Miles Davis (the Birth of the Cool Nonet and three classic albums from the late 1950s), Evans also led and arranged quite a few special sessions of his own. Like Ellington, he had the knack for combining together very different tones in a coherent and colorful fashion.

Recording: Gil Evans and Ten (Original Jazz Classics, 346)

Farlow, Tal (1921–1998). One of the hottest bop guitarists of the 1950s, Farlow had huge hands yet a very light touch. He later became a bit of a recluse, resurfacing on the national scene on an irregular basis, but otherwise content to play locally and work as a sign painter.

Recording: The Return of Tal Farlow: 1969 (Original Jazz Classics, 356)

Farmer, Art (1928–1999). The bop-based Farmer had a mellow tone on his flugelhorn along with the ability to make the most complex music sound effortless. The Jazztet that he co-led with Benny Golson may have only lasted three years, but his career lasted fifty.

Recording: Something to Live For (Contemporary, 14029)

Ferguson, Maynard (1928–). One of the great high-note trumpeters, Maynard Ferguson’s music ranged over time from a great bop-oriented big band in the late 1950s to more commercial ventures. Somehow he was always able to pop out those stratospheric notes.

Recording: Si! Si!/Maynard ’64 (Roulette, 95334)

Fitzgerald, Ella (1917–1996). The much-beloved artist sang lyrics with joy, uplifting everything she interpreted. She could also outscat and outswing anyone, yet appeared modest, as if she did not quite realize how great she was.

Recording: Ella in Rome: The Birthday Concert (Verve, 835 454)

Freeman, Bud (1906–1991). Virtually the only tenor saxophonist from the late 1920s who did not sound like Coleman Hawkins, Freeman went his own way throughout his career. He showed that the sax can indeed be part of a Dixieland band, although he preferred to play superior swing standards.

Recording: 1939–1940 (Classics, 811)

Frishberg, Dave (1933–). One of the wittiest of all lyricists, Frishberg’s words are full of both humor and insight. He is also an excellent swing-to-bop pianist and a cheerful if world-weary vocalist.

Recording: Live at Vine Street (Original Jazz Classics, 832)

Garner, Erroll (1921–1977). Garner could not read music and rarely looked at the keyboard when he played, yet he always sounded inspired. Garner could go into a studio, sit at a piano, and emerge three hours later with three complete albums, all full of joy and excitement.

Recording: Dreamstreet & One World Concert (Telarc, 83350)

Gayle, Charles (1939–). A very passionate free jazzer, Gayle screams and screeches on his tenor with religious fervor, starting where Albert Ayler left off.

Recording: Touchin’ on Trane (FMP, 48)

Getz, Stan (1927–1991). Producer of one of the most beautiful tenor tones, Getz never relied purely on his sound. His career found him evolving through bop, cool, bossa nova, post-bop and hard bop, always playing with great intelligence.

Recording: Soul Eyes (Concord Jazz, 4783)

Gibbs, Terry (1924–). Gibbs plays vibes even faster than he talks, taking ballads at double or triple time and tearing into up-tempo tunes with ease. He has been one of the unheralded giants of the vibes ever since playing with Woody Herman’s Second Herd in the late 1940s.

Recording: Air Mail Special (Contemporary, 14056)

Gillespie, Dizzy (1917–1993). Gillespie not only helped found bebop but was also one of the pioneers of Afro-Cuban jazz. A masterful showman, humorist, and scat-singer, Dizzy was hugely entertaining in addition to being one of the greatest trumpeters ever.

Recordings: The Modern Jazz Sextet (Verve, 1842), Birk’s Works: The Verve Big Band Sessions (Verve, 527900)

Giuffre, Jimmy (1921–). A cool-toned clarinetist, tenor, and baritonist, Giuffre started in cool jazz (composing “Four Brothers”), led a notable folk jazz trio, and by the early 1960s was playing a quiet brand of avant-garde.

Recording: Co nversations with a Goose (Soul Note, 121258)

Golson, Benny (1929–). Golson emerged in the mid-1950s playing tenor with a sound similar to Don Byas and Lucky Thompson. As a songwriter, he has the knack of fusing catchy melodies to complex chord changes, delighting listeners and creative musicians alike.

Recording: New York Scene (Original Jazz Classics, 164)

Goodman, Benny (1909–1986). The King of Swing, Goodman was one of the greatest clarinetists of all time and the leader of the big band that launched the swing era. He rarely changed his style after 1935, yet usually played with enthusiasm, sticking to what he loved best.

Recording: On the Air 1937–1938 (Columbia/Legacy, 48836)

Gordon, Dexter (1923–1990). Long Tall Dexter was the king of bop tenors in the 1940s, a star on the Blue Note label in the 1960s, a celebrity in Europe during his long period overseas, and, in the 1985 Round Midnight film, a movie star.

Recording: Stable Mable (Steeplechase, 31040)

Grappelli, Stephane (1908–1997). Violinist with the Hot Club of France next to Django Reinhardt in the 1930s, Grappelli continued playing for six decades afterwards. After he became a world traveler in the 1970s, his fame grew as a masterful swing violinist.

Recording: 1935–1940 (Classics, 708)

Green, Grant (1931–1979). Blue Note’s house guitarist during the first half of the 1960s, Green (who stuck to single-note lines) excelled in every setting whether it was post-bop, hard bop, or soul jazz. Later in life he tried the commercial route without much success, but his 1960s work still sounds fresh and classic.

Recording: Matador (Blue Note, 84442)

Griffin, Johnny (1928–). Once billed as the world’s fastest tenor saxophonist, Johnny Griffin is coherent and swinging at any speed. On separate encounters, he more than held his own with John Coltrane and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis.

Recording: The Congregation (Blue Note, 89383)

Gullin, Lars (1928–1976). Sweden’s answer to Gerry Mulligan, Gullin was a superior cool jazz baritonist who had his own musical personality.

Recording: 1953–1956: With Chet Baker, Vol. 1 (Dragon, 224)

Haden, Charlie (1937–). One of the very few bassists who could have played with Ornette Coleman in 1959 and contributed a forward momentum without tying Ornette down to following chords, Haden has had a productive solo career since the 1960s.

Recording: Dream Keeper (Blue Note, 95474)

Hall, Edmond (1901–1967). A clarinetist with a cutting tone that could be heard over a brass section, Hall was a swing player who also excelled as a member of the Louis Armstrong All-Stars in the late 1950s.

Recording: Profoundly Blue (Blue Note, 21260)

Hall, Jim (1930–). Harmonically advanced, subtle, and explorative, guitarist Hall started in bop and evolved to post-bop. His playing has inspired Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell.

Recording: Alone Together (Original Jazz Classics, 467)

Hamilton, Chico (1921–). The Chico Hamilton Quintet was a major West Coast jazz group that featured the improvising cellist Fred Katz along with unusual tone colors. Drummer Hamilton has led other intriguing bands since the mid-1950s, and his sidemen have included tenor-saxophonist Charles Lloyd, guitarist Gabor Szabo, and more recently altoist Eric Person.

Recording: My Panamanian Friend (Soul Note, 121265)

Hampton, Lionel (1909–2002). The always exuberant vibraphonist (who introduced his instrument to jazz) grew from being a member of the Benny Goodman Quartet into a leader of his own big bands. Hampton always loved to play “Flying Home” and excite audiences.

Recording: Hamp and Getz (Verve, 831672)

Hancock, Herbie (1940–). From composing “Watermelon Man,” finding a role for the piano in the music of Miles Davis’ second classic quintet, and leading the funky Headhunters to exploring world music, electric funk, and modern acoustic jazz, pianist/keyboardist Hancock never seems to run out of new projects. He sounds like himself no matter what the setting.

Recording: Speak Like a Child (Blue Note, 46136)

Harris, Eddie (1934–1996). An underrated tenor saxophonist, Harris was particularly inventive on electric sax. He composed “Freedom Jazz Dance,” made strong selling recordings, was a good pianist and singer, and even cut comedy albums.

Recording: Exodus to Jazz/Mighty Like a Rose (Vee-Jay, 904)

Harris, Gene (1933–2000). Harris practically defined soul jazz with his 1960s group The Three Sounds, and after some time away, the pianist made a full comeback in the 1980s. His style combined gospel influences with Oscar Peterson’s brand of swinging jazz, and he was consistently excellent throughout his career.

Recording: Listen Here (Concord Jazz, 1006)

Hasselgard, Stan (1922–1948). The Swedish-born Hasselgard was such a strong clarinetist that Benny Goodman actually added him to his septet in 1948. Hasselgard might have had luck helping the clarinet get accepted into bebop, but a car accident cut short his life.

Recording: Jammin’ at Jubilee (Dragon, 29)

Hawkins, Coleman (1904–1969). The first great tenor saxophonist, Hawkins prided himself on being modern throughout his forty-five-year career, whether playing with Fletcher Henderson, using young beboppers on his sessions in the 1940s, or jamming later on with John Coltrane and Booker Little.

Recording: The Hawk Flies High (Original Jazz Classics, 027)

Haynes, Roy (1926–). From Charlie Parker and Bud Powell to Chick Corea and Pat Metheny, drummer Haynes has always been an asset, one whose mind stays wide open.

Recording: Te Vou (Dreyfus, 36539)

Hemphill, Julius (1940–1995). An avant-garde altoist who was also a major writer, Hemphill was a key force in founding the World Saxophone Quartet and had a strong solo career.

Recording: Fat Man and the Hard Blues (Black Saint, 120152)

Henderson, Fletcher (1897–1952). Most important as the leader of the first great jazz big band (from 1923 on), Henderson was a masterful talent scout, a good pianist, and a significant arranger starting in the early 1930s. His arrangements were used and loved by Benny Goodman.

Recording: 1926–1927 (Classics, 597)

Henderson, Joe (1937–2001). Always distinctive, Joe Henderson was a classic inside/outside tenor saxophonist. Late in his career he gained great commercial success without changing his sound or style one bit.

Recording: So Near So Far (Verve, 517 674)

Hendricks, Jon (1921–). The genius of vocalese, Hendricks is a masterful and productive lyricist in addition to being a fine singer.

Recording: Boppin’ at the Blue Note (Telarc, 83320)

Herman, Woody (1913–1987). A pretty good clarinetist, altoist, and singer, Herman is most important for leading a big band on and off for fifty years and for encouraging his younger sidemen to be creative.

Recordings: Blues on Parade (GRP/Decca, 606), The Raven Speaks (Original Jazz Classics, 663)29.5

Hill, Andrew (1937–). A highly original pianist and composer, Hill’s music falls between hard bop and the avant-garde, quite advanced while following its own logic.

Recording: Verona Rag (Soul Note, 121110)

Hines, Earl (1903–1983). A 1920s pianist with the trickiest left hand in the business who loved to suspend time in death-defying runs, Hines had a big comeback in the 1960s and showed that his style was timeless.

Recording: Tour de Force (1201 Music, 9028)

Hinton, Milt (1910–2000). A lovable figure, bassist Hinton played for years with Cab Calloway and after that period ended worked in the studios and onstage with virtually everyone else. He was also a masterful photographer.

Recording: Old Man Time (Chiaroscuro, 310)

Hodges, Johnny (1907–1970). Altoist Hodges had such a beautiful tone and could sound so sensuous on ballads that his expertise on blues and stomps was sometimes overshadowed. Except for four years in the 1950s, he was Duke Ellington’s top soloist from 1928 to 1970.

Recording: Everybody Knows (GRP/Impulse, 116)

Holiday, Billie (1915–1959). Lady Day’s expressive behind-the-beat phrasing and tendency to live the words she sang (particularly in later years) was legendary. Her music was mostly jazz oriented in the 1930s, and her voice was at its strongest during the following decade, but some fans prefer her tortured and haunting vocals of the 1950s.

Recording: The Quintessential Billie Holiday, Vol. 8 (Columbia/Legacy, 47030)

Holman, Bill (1927–). One of Stan Kenton’s best arrangers in the 1950s, Holman has continued growing through the years and was one of the most inventive arrangers in all of jazz during the 1990s.

Recording: Brilliant Corners (JVC, 2066)

Horn, Shirley (1934–). Though she can sing and play piano on medium-tempo tunes, Horn became famous for her very slow renditions of ballads.

Recording: I Thought about You (Verve, 833 235)

Hubbard, Freddie (1938–). A fiery trumpeter influenced by Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan who became a giant himself by the late 1960s, Hubbard was at his best on his Blue Note and CTI recordings. After the mid-1970s his recordings became erratic (ranging from treasures to trash), and unfortunately he largely lost his trumpet chops after the early 1990s.

Recording: Straight Life (Columbia/CTI, 65125)

Hunter, Alberta (1895–1984). A classic blues singer who first recorded in 1921, Hunter had an episodic career including twenty-one years spent off the music scene as a nurse. In 1977 she enjoyed a memorable musical comeback at the age of eighty-two, still singing double-entendre blues and classic material.

Recording: Chicago: The Living Legends (Original Blues Classics, 510)

Hutcherson, Bobby (1941–). One of the major vibraphonists, Hutcherson in the 1960s often appeared on avant-garde recordings for Blue Note before maturing into an unpredictable hard bop stylist.

Recording: Skyline (Verve, 559 616)

Hyman, Dick (1927–). Able to play in any style, pianist Hyman by the mid-1970s mostly settled on classic 1920s jazz and swing. His technique remains as phenomenal as his huge repertoire.

Recording: In Recital (Reference, 84)

Jackson, Milt (1923–1999). A soulful bebopper, Milt Jackson had the definitive style on vibes. His many years with the Modern Jazz Quartet were balanced out by solo projects that emphasized his love for blues, ballads, and bop.

Recording: Night Mist (Original Jazz Classics, 827)

Jacquet, Illinois (1922–). Jacquet played the famous tenor solo on “Flying Home” with Lionel Hampton that launched rhythm and blues. He also played other romps, remains a warm interpreter of ballads, and has always had a very viable sound that mixed together aspects of Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young.

Recording: Bottoms Up (Original Jazz Classics, 417)

Jamal, Ahmad (1930–). A master at utilizing space and dynamics, pianist Ahmad Jamal has led a series of intriguing and subtle trios for a half century.

Recording: Chicago Revisited: Live at Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase (Telarc, 83327)

James, Harry (1916–1983). A brilliant trumpeter who led the most popular big band in 1942 through 1946, James was a household name for decades. Though he sometimes performed schmaltz and pop music, he could play exciting jazz with the best.

Recording: 1937–1939 (Classics, 903)

Jefferson, Eddie (1918–1979). The founder of vocalese, Jefferson had an average voice but was a very skilled lyricist. He wrote the classic lyrics to “Moody’s Mood for Love” and “Body and Soul” (paying tribute to Coleman Hawkins).

Recording: Body and Soul (Original Jazz Classics, 396)

Johnson, Bunk (1889–1949). His supporters considered cornetist Johnson to be the savior of New Orleans jazz when he was rediscovered in the early 1940s, while his detractors thought he was a fraud. Bunk fell somewhere in between, but on his best days could play very good classic jazz.

Recording: Complete Deccas, Victors, V-Discs Alternate Takes (Document, 1001)

Johnson, J. J. (1924–2001). The Charlie Parker of the trombone, J. J. Johnson showed that fast lines were no problem on his potentially awkward instrument. He was also an important composer while maintaining his reputation as jazz’s leading trombonist.

Recording: Things Are Getting Better All the Time (Original Jazz Classics, 745)

Johnson, James P. (1894–1955). The father of stride piano, James P. Johnson developed and perfected the style, inspiring Fats Waller. Johnson was also a top songwriter who wrote “The Charleston” and “Old Fashioned Love.”

Recording: Snowy Morning Blues (GRP/Decca, 604)

Johnson, Pete (1904–1967). One of the top boogie-woogie pianists of the 1930s and 1940s, Johnson was also a superior blues player who often teamed up with Big Joe Turner.

Recording: 1944–1946 (Classics, 933)

Jones, Elvin (1927–). John Coltrane’s drummer from 1960 to 1965, Jones is a master of polyrhythms, even on ballads. He has been an important leader of post-bop combos (the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine) for over three decades.

Recording: It Don’t Mean a Thing (Enja, 8066)

Jones, Jo (1911–1985). Jones’ light touch on the drums (de-emphasizing the bass drum) while with Count Basie was influential, and he remained one of the top swing drummers into the 1960s.

Recording: The Essential Jo Jones (Vanguard, 101/102)

Jones, Thad (1923–1986). As a cornetist, Jones chose his notes carefully and was quite advanced, even while with Count Basie in the 1950s. He developed into a major arranger-composer (writing “A Child Is Born”), co-leading the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra during 1966–1978.

Recording: Consummation (Blue Note, 38266)

Joplin, Scott (1868–1917). The king of ragtime, Joplin largely defined the idiom of classic ragtime, and his “Maple Leaf Rag” remains the style’s most popular number. Unfortunately he never recorded.

Jordan, Louis (1908–1975). A fine jump altoist who was a talented and humorous singer, Jordan and his Tympany Five had dozens of hits between 1942–1951, leading the way from swing to r&b.

Recording: 1943–1945 (Classics, 866)

Kenton, Stan (1911–1979). The adventurous arrangements that pianist-arranger Kenton featured with his big band was forceful, sometimes pompous, and almost always risk-taking. His music was worshipped by some (he became a jazz cult figure) and dismissed by others but never ignored.

Recordings: The Innovations Orchestra (Capitol, 59965), New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm (Capitol, 92865)

Keppard, Freddie (1890–1933). The successor to Buddy Bolden and the predecessor of King Oliver, Keppard was considered the top cornetist in New Orleans around 1910. Fortunately he recorded a few sessions in the 1920s that give today’s listeners an idea of what his early style sounded like.

Recording: The Complete Freddie Keppard 1923–1927 (King Jazz, 111)

Kirby, John (1908–1952). Bassist Kirby led a unique sextet during the swing era that had cool-toned virtuosos and a repertoire that included some themes from classical music.

Recording: 1939–1941 (Classics, 770)

Kirk, Rahsaan Roland (1936–1977). Kirk frequently did the impossible, whether it was playing three saxophones at once, taking twenty-minute, one-breath solos via circular breathing, or playing credibly in any jazz style on a moment’s notice. He had to be experienced live to be fully appreciated.

Recording: Domino (Verve, 833)

Konitz, Lee (1927–). An advanced cool jazz player in the late 1940s who worked with Claude Thornhill, Miles Davis’ Nonet, and Lennie Tristano, Konitz has always had a strong musical curiosity. For over fifty-five years, he has consistently pushed himself, performing in a countless number of challenging settings without changing his basic style.

Recording: The Lee Konitz Duets (Original Jazz Classics, 466)

Krupa, Gene (1909–1973). A crowd pleaser who was the first superstar drummer, Gene Krupa may not have been the most subtle drummer, but he was always exciting, whether playing with Benny Goodman or leading his own fine big bands.

Recording: 1935–1938 (Classics, 754)

Lacy, Steve (1934–). Although he started out as a Dixieland clarinetist, by the 1950s Lacy was playing free jazz on soprano sax with Cecil Taylor. He has since become one of the foremost interpreters of Thelonious Monk’s music, leader of his own advanced sextet, and a thoughtful but always adventurous scalar improviser.

Recordings: The Straight Horn of Steve Lacy (Candid, 79007), Live at Sweet Basil (Novus, 63128)

Lake, Oliver (1942–). A free jazz altoist, Lake’s playing experiences range from being a member of the World Saxophone Quartet to leading an avant-garde reggae band.

Recording: Expandable Language (Black Saint, 120074)

Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross (1957–1964). Arguably the finest jazz vocal group of all time, this classic ensemble featured three masters of vocalese in Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks, and Annie Ross. All of their recordings are memorable.

Recording: Sing a Song of Basie (Verve, 543827)

Lang, Eddie (1902–1933). The first important jazz guitarist, Lang could play single-note blues lines with Lonnie Johnson or the most sophisticated chord voicings of the era. He was in great demand for record dates before his early death and often teamed up with violinist Joe Venuti.

Recording: Pioneers of Jazz Guitar 1927–1938 (Challenge, 79015)

Lewis, George (1900–1968). A primitive but often rewarding New Orleans clarinetist, Lewis first gained attention in the mid-1940s for his playing with Bunk Johnson. In the 1950s he toured the world with his band, becoming quite famous and influential in the trad world.

Recording: In Stockholm 1959 (Dragon, 221)

Lewis, John (1920–2001). The Count Basie of bebop in his use of single-note lines and space, Lewis was the musical director of the Modern Jazz Quartet and loved both classical music and blues.

Recording: Grand Encounter (Pacific Jazz, 46859)

Lewis, Meade Lux (1905–1964). One of the three members of the Boogie Woogie Trio of the late 1930s, Lewis had a long career and stuck throughout to blues and boogie-woogie, occasionally recording on celeste.

Recording: The Blues Piano Artistry of Meade Lux Lewis (Original Blues Classics, 1759)

Lincoln, Abbey (1930–). Like Billie Holiday in her later period, Abbey Lincoln always believed in the words she sang. An underrated lyricist, Lincoln’s music ranges from the political to love songs, always sticking to the truth.

Recordings: Straight Ahead (Candid, 79015), People in Me (Polygram, 514626)

Lunceford, Jimmy (1902–1947). A multi-instrumentalist, Lunceford largely gave up playing to lead one of the swing era’s most intriguing orchestras. His ensembles featured impeccable musicianship, glee club singing, and concise solos.

Recording: Lunceford Special (Columbia/Legacy, 65647)

Machito (1912–1984). Leader of the pioneering Afro-Cuban jazz band, Machito sang, played maracas, and was wise enough to have his brother-in-law Mario Bauza be his musical director.

Recording: Machito at the Crescendo (GNP/Crescendo, 58)

Manne, Shelly (1920–1984). A very versatile drummer based on the West Coast, Manne led jazz groups that were cool in the 1950s and hard bop-oriented during the next decade. He also ran the popular jazz club Shelly’s.

Recording: Manne-Hole. Vol. 4: Swinging Sounds (Original Jazz Classics, 267)

McGhee, Howard (1918–1987). McGhee was influenced by Roy Eldridge and in turn was an inspiration for Fats Navarro. He was one of the top trumpeters of 1945–1950 before drug use slowed him down.

Recording: Maggie’s Back in Town (Original Jazz Classics, 693)

McLaughlin, John (1942–). One of the first jazz guitarists to break away from the Charlie Christian model, the highly original McLaughlin has been a giant in fusion (the Mahavishnu Orchestra), world music (Shakti), and as a soloist on both electric and acoustic guitars.

Recordings: My Goals Beyond (Knitting Factory Works, 3010), The Promise (Verve, 529 828)

McLean, Jackie (1932–). A definitive hard bop altoist in the 1950s, McLean was open to freer sounds in the 1960s. His slightly sharp and intense sound has always been immediately recognizable.

Recordings: Destination Out (Blue Note, 32087), Dynasty (Triloka, 181)

McRae, Carmen (1920–1994). A much-beloved singer ranked just below Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, McRae’s ironic interpretations of lyrics and laid-back phrasing have been very influential. She did not record as a leader until she was thirty-four but kept busy for most of the next forty years.

Recording: For Lady Day (Novus, 63163)

McShann, Jay (1916–). As a big bandleader, McShann will always be remembered for having Charlie Parker as a sideman, but he has also been a top Kansas City swing/blues pianist and vocalist for seventy years.

Recording: Hootie (Chiaroscuro, 357)

Miley, Bubber (1903–1932). An important force in Duke Ellington’s band of 1926–1929, trumpeter Miley’s brilliance with mutes was largely responsible for Duke’s “Jungle Sound.”

Recording: Duke Ellington—The Bubber Miley Era: 1924–1929 (Jazz Giants, 1014)

Miller, Glenn (1904–1944). Leader of the most popular big band of the swing era, Miller started his career as a trombonist but soon de-emphasized playing in favor of his arranging and organizational skills. His orchestra had a remarkable number of hits in 1939 to 1942 before he led the Army Air Force Band while in the military.

Recording: The Chesterfield Broadcasts (BMG Heritage, 54306)

Mingus, Charles (1922–1979). A brilliant bassist and composer, Mingus was highly emotional, driving his sidemen to the breaking point as he got them to play way above their comfort zones for him. The Mingus Big Band today keeps his music very much alive.

Recordings: Blues and Roots (Rhino/Atlantic, 75205), Mingus at Antibes (Atlantic, 90532)

Mobley, Hank (1930–1986). A fixture on Blue Note hard bop sessions of the 1950s and 1960s, Mobley may not have been the most innovative tenor saxophonist, but he had the knack for being part of one memorable session after another.

Recording: Roll Call (Blue Note, 9051)

Modern Jazz Quartet (1952–1996). Comprised of pianist John Lewis, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, bassist Percy Heath, and drummer Connie Kay (who replaced Kenny Clarke in 1955), the MJQ had its own delicate sound. They were sometimes involved in over-arranged third stream projects but never gave up playing bop standards and swinging blues.

Recording: For Ellington (East West, 90926)

Monk, Thelonious (1917–1982). Monk was original from the start, as a pianist and a composer. No one sounded like him, so he put in decades of hard work before he was finally treated as a genius and innovator and not merely as an eccentric.

Recordings: Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane (Original Jazz, Classics 39), Monk’s Dream (Columbia/Legacy, 40786)

Montgomery, Wes (1925–1968). One of the top jazz guitarists of the 1960s, Wes Montgomery made the Charlie Christian style his own, adding his expertise with octaves. Although his last few albums were commercial (allowing him a brief bit of prosperity), his earlier Riverside sessions are permanent proof of his greatness.

Recording: So Much Guitar (Original Jazz Classics, 233)

Moody, James (1925–). Whether on tenor, alto, flute, or singing “Moody’s Mood for Love,” James Moody is both entertaining and very musical. He came to prominence during the bop era, was closely associated with Dizzy Gillespie, and is still a major force.

Recording: Moody’s Mood for Blues (Original Jazz Classics, 1837)

Morgan, Lee (1938–1972). A major trumpeter from the time he turned eighteen, Lee Morgan built on the style of Clifford Brown and became a giant of hard bop. He recorded many rewarding sessions as a leader (including his catchy hit “The Sidewinder”), with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and with his contemporaries.

Recording: The Gigolo (Blue Note, 84212)

Morton, Jelly Roll (1890–1941). One of the pioneers of jazz, Morton was one of the first great pianists and arranger-composers. His work with his Red Hot Peppers of 1926–1928 ranks with the finest jazz recordings.

Recording: Last Sessions: The Complete General Recordings (GRP, 403)

Mulligan, Gerry (1927–1996). The leading baritone saxophonist of the 1950s and a talented arranger and songwriter, Mulligan came to fame leading a piano-less quartet with Chet Baker. His witty style and light sound made him a popular figure for decades.

Recording: Gerry Mulligan in Paris, Vol. 1 (Vogue, 68211)

Murphy, Mark (1932–). An adventurous jazz singer, Murphy alternates between his eccentric falsetto and baritone voice, improvising with the spirit of a bebopper while breaking down new vocal boundaries.

Recording: Stolen … and Other Moments (32 Jazz, 32036)

Nance, Ray (1913–1976). An important member of Duke Ellington’s orchestra during the years from1940 to 1963, Nance was a fine cornetist who succeeded Cootie Williams as a plunger mute specialist. In addition he was an excellent violinist and an entertaining singer. Nance made virtually all of his most significant recordings with Ellington.

Nanton, Tricky Sam (1904–1946). Sitting next to Bubber Miley, Cootie Williams, and Ray Nance with Duke Ellington’s band from 1926 to 1946, Tricky Sam played other worldly sounds on trombone that have rarely been duplicated. Despite his talents, Nanton never led his own record date.

Navarro, Fats (1923–1950). A major bop trumpeter during the years from 1945 to 1949, Navarro later influenced Clifford Brown who influenced virtually all the trumpeters to follow. Navarro was a strong contender for Dizzy Gillespie’s throne, but heroin and tuberculosis cut short his life.

Recording: Featured with the Tadd Dameron Band (Milestone, 47041)

New Orleans Rhythm Kings (1922–1925). The top jazz band on record in 1922, the NORK extended the legacy of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band by balancing ensembles with short solos, including most notably from clarinetist Leon Roppolo.

Recording: New Orleans Rhythm Kings and Jelly Roll Morton (Milestone, 47020)

Noone, Jimmie (1895–1944). A major clarinetist during the 1920s, Noone had a smooth style that influenced Benny Goodman. His work with the Apex Club Orchestra (starting in 1928) generally had Noone playing over his altoist who purposely stuck to the melody, which created an unusual ensemble sound.

Recording: 1930–1934 (Classics, 641)

Norvo, Red (1908–1999). In the 1930s Norvo was the only xylophonist to lead a big band. He had a distinctive style, even after switching to vibes in 1943, and in the early 1950s led a modern trio with guitarist Tal Farlow and bassist Charles Mingus.

Recording: Dance of the Octopus (Hep, 1044)

O’Day, Anita (1919–). O’Day came to fame singing with Gene Krupa’s band (“Let Me Off Uptown”), and after a stint with Stan Kenton, she was at her best on her solo records for Verve during the 1950s. She made a colorful and well-publicized comeback from heroin addiction in the 1970s.

Recording: All the Sad Young Men (Verve, 517065)

O’Farrill, Chico (1921–2001). One of the unsung heroes of Afro-Cuban jazz, O’Farrill’s arrangements for Machito, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Kenton, and his own bands defined the idiom and provided Latin jazz with some of its most stirring moments.

Recording: Carambola (Milestone, 938)

Oliver, King (1885–1938). Considered the top cornetist in New Orleans in 1915, Joe “King” Oliver led the Creole Jazz Band in Chicago from 1922 to 1924 (which featured his protégé Louis Armstrong), the Dixie Syncopators in 1926, and a fine hot dance band in New York in the late 1920s before his failing teeth and bad luck caused his demise in the 1930s.

Recording: King Oliver (RCA, 42411)

Original Dixieland Jazz Band (1917–1923). The first jazz band to record, the ODJB was the pacesetter (at least on records) from 1917 to 1921, sounding absolutely barbaric compared to the polite recordings that were typical of 1915.

Recording: 1917–1923 (EPM Musique, 15849)

Ory, Kid (1886–1973). A pioneering New Orleans trombonist who in the 1920s recorded with Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Jelly Roll Morton, Ory made a comeback in the 1940s and led one of the top New Orleans jazz bands of the 1950s.

Recording: This Kid’s the Greatest (Good Time Jazz, 12045)

Palmieri, Eddie (1936–). In addition to leading top-notch Afro-Cuban jazz bands since the early 1960s, Palmieri is significant as a pianist, updating the style by infusing the influence of McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, and Chick Corea into Latin jazz.

Recording: El Rumbero del Piano (RMM, 82197)

Parker, Charlie (1920–1955). One of the most remarkable saxophonists of all time, Parker’s ability to play perfect coherent solos at ridiculously fast tempos, his knack at coming up with new phrases that would be adopted by later generations, and his brilliance at negotiating chord changes are still wondrous. One could not imagine bebop and post-1945 jazz without him.

Recording: Complete Verve Master Takes (Verve, 65597)

Pass, Joe (1929–1994). A very talented bop guitarist in the 1960s, Pass found immortality in the 1970s when he showed that he could play unaccompanied solos on up-tempo bop tunes such as “Cherokee” and “How High the Moon,” supplying the melody, harmonies, chords, and bass lines simultaneously.

Recordings: For Django (BGO, 430), Virtuoso #2 (Pablo, 2310-788)

Pastorius, Jaco (1951–1987). The first truly distinctive electric bassist, Pastorius starred with Weather Report and his own Word of Mouth big band. He showed that the electric bass could be a lead instrument, and he led the way for virtually everyone on his instrument.

Recording: Invitation (Warner Bros., 16662)

Pepper, Art (1925–1982). A superb altoist in the 1950s whose musical consistency contrasted with his very erratic lifestyle, Pepper made a remarkable comeback in the mid-1970s that found him fighting his way back up to the top.

Recordings: Gettin’ Together (Original Jazz Classics, 169), Straight Life (Original Jazz Classics, 475)

Peterson, Oscar (1925–). Peterson has displayed more technique on piano than any jazz player other than Art Tatum, and his ability to outswing everyone has made him a major attraction for over five decades. Whether with his trios or on unaccompanied solos, Peterson ranked near the top at least until an early 1990s stroke weakened his playing.

Recordings: My Favorite Instrument (Verve, 821 843), The Trio (Pablo, 2310-701)

Pettiford, Oscar (1922–1960). The most significant bassist to emerge right after the death of Jimmy Blanton, Pettiford was greatly respected by bop and swing players alike. He was a strong soloist on bass and (with Harry Babasin) a pioneering jazz cellist.

Recording: First Bass (IAJRC, 1010)

Pleasure, King (1922–1981). King Pleasure had the best voice of the vocalese singers and made “Moody’s Mood for Love” and “Parker’s Mood” into jazz hits in the 1950s.

Recording: Golden Days (Original Jazz Classics, 1772)

Ponty, Jean-Luc (1942–). The master of fusion violin, Ponty made contributions to the bands of John McLaughlin (the second Mahavishnu Orchestra) and Frank Zappa but was at his best on his string of albums for the Atlantic label.

Recording: Live at Donte’s (Blue Note, 35635)

Powell, Bud (1924–1966). Powell largely invented bebop piano and the next two generations followed in his giant footsteps.

Recording: Bud Plays Bird (Roulette, 37137)

Pozo, Chano (1915–1948). When percussionist-singer Pozo joined Dizzy Gillespie’s big band in 1947, the exciting mix of styles resulted in Afro-Cuban jazz.

Recording: Legendary Sessions (Tumbau, 017)

Puente, Tito (1923–2000). “El Rey” was the best known of the Latin jazz bandleaders and the most durable. His playing of timbales and vibes was impressive, but it was his joyful spirit that was particularly memorable.

Recording: The Mambo King: His 100th Album (RMM, 80680)

Ra, Sun (1914–1993). A true eccentric, Ra was also a visionary who played electric keyboards as early as the 1950s, led the first avant-garde big band, and mixed together ancient Egypt and science fiction both in his philosophy and his Arkestra’s outfits.

Recordings: Jazz in Silhouette (Evidence, 22012), Space Is the Place (GRP/Impulse, 249)

Redman, Don (1900–1964). One of jazz’s first great arrangers, Redman wrote the influential charts for the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra of 1923 to 1927. He also led McKinney’s Cotton Pickers and his own swing-era big band, played alto and clarinet, and sang philosophical lyrics in a conversational style.

Recording: 1931–1933 (Classics, 543)

Reinhardt, Django (1910–1953). One of the most remarkable guitarists of all time, Django Reinhardt had no competitors in the 1930s on acoustic guitar. By the late 1940s he had conquered both bebop and the electric guitar.

Recording: Peche a la Mouche (Verve, 835 418)

Rich, Buddy (1917–1970). An incredible drummer, Buddy Rich propelled several swing-era bands (including Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey), was featured with Jazz at the Philharmonic in the 1950s, and had his own big band starting in 1966. No drummer was faster or more virtuosic.

Recording: Mercy, Mercy (Blue Note, 54331)

Roach, Max (1924–). The definitive bop drummer, Roach took solos that made one think he was a master architect. Always modern, he led bands from the mid-1950s on, with Clifford Brown, Sonny Rollins, Booker Little, Stanley Turrentine, and Freddie Hubbard, headed the all-percussion group M’Boom, and played duets with avant-gardists.

Recording: Easy Winners (Soul Note, 121 109)

Rogers, Shorty (1924–1994). A solid trumpeter, Rogers was most significant as a West Coast arranger, composer, and organizer of record and studio sessions. He kept everyone working.

Recording: Swings (Bluebird, 3012)

Rollins, Sonny (1930–). One of the giants of the tenor, Rollins had his own sound by the early 1950s. On a remarkable number of important albums, he has always displayed the ability to take continually interesting solos laced with witty and fresh ideas.

Recordings: The Bridge (Bluebird, 52472), Next Album (Original Jazz Classics, 312)

Rushing, Jimmy (1903–1972). The best of the male band singers, Rushing (“Mr. Five by Five”) sang the blues with Count Basie for over a dozen years and had a solid solo career in the 1950s.

Recording: The Essential Jimmy Rushing (Vanguard, 66)

Russell, Pee Wee (1906–1969). A very original clarinetist who took wild chances in his solos, Russell spent much of his career in Dixieland settings but was really in his own musical world.

Recording: Ask Me Now (Verve, 755 742)

Santamaria, Mongo (1922–2003). The masterful percussionist played congas with Tito Puente and Cal Tjader before leading his own popular groups, having several catchy hits along the way including “Watermelon Man.”

Recording: Skin on Skin: The Mongo Santamaria Anthology (Rhino, 75689)

Shavers, Charlie (1917–1971). A brilliant trumpeter from the swing era, Shavers was the star of the John Kirby Sextet, was featured in Tommy Dorsey’s band, and battled Roy Eldridge successfully at Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts.

Recording: 1944–1945 (Classics, 944)

Shaw, Artie (1910–2004). Leader of five major big bands during the swing era and one of the finest clarinetists of all time, Shaw did his best to run away from success. Despite that, he had million sellers in “Begin the Beguine,” “Frenesi,” “Star Dust,” and “Summit Ridge Drive.”

Recording: The Complete Gramercy Five Sessions (Bluebird, 7637)

Shaw, Woody (1944–1989). A major trumpeter of the late 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Shaw had a tone similar to Freddie Hubbard’s but a more advanced post-bop style.

Recording: Little Red’s Fantasy (32 Jazz, 32126)

Shearing, George (1919–). A top swing pianist by the late 1930s, Shearing embraced bop and made it palatable to the masses with his popular quintet of 1949 to 1970. Since that group’s breakup, he has continued touring the world with his duo, always happy to play his “Lullaby of Birdland” as an encore.

Recording: On a Clear Day (Concord, Jazz 4132)

Shorter, Wayne (1933–). A true original as a tenor saxophonist, soprano saxophonist, and composer, Shorter was a major asset to Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, the second classic Miles Davis Quintet, and Weather Report. In recent times he has shown that in his seventies he is still very much in his musical prime.

Recording: Footprints Live! (Verve, 589 679)

Silver, Horace (1928–). Silver has been very significant as a highly influential funky soul jazz pianist, a bandleader who headed several major quintets, and as a songwriter (including “Señor Blues” and “Song for My Father”).

Recording: Finger Poppin’ with the Horace Silver Quintet (Blue Note, 42304)

Sims, Zoot (1925–1985). Famous for always swinging, tenor-saxophonist Zoot Sims emerged from Woody Herman’s Second Herd to be the star of a countless number of straight-ahead combo albums and sessions.

Recording: Warm Tenor (Pablo, 2310-831)

Smith, Bessie (1894–1937). The Empress of the Blues was arguably the top singer on records of the 1920s, a powerful force whose performances still resonate with today’s listeners.

Recording: The Complete Recordings, Vol. 3 (Columbia/Legacy, 47474)

Smith, Jimmy (1925–). Smith burst upon the national scene in 1956, showing that the Hammond B-3 organ was a very viable jazz instrument. His series of jam session records for Blue Note are still the highpoint of his lengthy career.

Recording: Cool Blues (Blue Note, 84441)

Smith, Stuff (1909–1967). The hardest swinging of all jazz violinists, Smith’s work with his Onyx Club Boys of the 1930s are some of the most enjoyable and hottest performances of the era.

Recording: Live at the Montmartre (Storyville, 4142)

Stitt, Sonny (1924–1982). Stitt, who was equally talented on alto and tenor sax, breathed bebop and was never shy about taking on all potential competitors.

Recording: Salt and Pepper (GRP/Impulse, 210)

Strayhorn, Billy (1915–1967). Duke Ellington’s right-hand man, Strayhorn was a skilled composer, a complementary arranger, and an underrated pianist. Among his compositions are “Take the ‘A’ Train” and “Lush Life.”

Recording: The Peaceful Side (Blue Note, 52563)

Tabackin, Lew (1940–). A high-powered tenor saxophonist inspired by Sonny Rollins and Ben Webster, Tabackin is also a flutist influenced by Asian classical music. In addition to his combo work, he is often featured with his wife Toshiko Akiyoshi’s big band.

Recording: Desert Lady (Concord Jazz, 4411)

Tatum, Art (1909–1956). An incredible pianist with remarkable technique and a style thirty years ahead of its time harmonically, Tatum could play blinding runs that amazed even the top classical pianists.

Recording: Piano Starts Here (Columbia/Legacy, 64690)

Taylor, Cecil (1929–). The most radical of all jazz improvisers, Taylor’s piano solos are thunderous, dense, and unremittingly atonal yet quite purposeful.

Recording: Unit Structures (Blue Note, 84237)

Teagarden, Jack (1905–1964). Among the first truly fluent trombone soloists, Teagarden was also an excellent singer. He was always a happy presence to have around, mostly appearing in Dixieland and swing settings.

Recording: 1941–1943 (Classics, 874)

Terry, Clark (1920–). Terry has always had an exuberant and joyful sound on flugelhorn and a style full of happiness. He was one of the stars with Duke Ellington in the 1950s and has led his own combos ever since.

Recording: Portraits (Chesky, 267)

Tjader, Cal (1925–1982). Tjader may have been Swedish, but the vibraphonist became one of the most important players and leaders in Afro-Cuban jazz. His bands were always popular and influential.

Recording: Night at the Black Hawk (Original Jazz Classics, 278)

Torme, Mel (1925–1999). Although he spent periods singing pop, Torme was always a jazz singer who loved swing standards. His 1950s work with the Marty Paich Dek-tette and his Concord recordings of the 1980s and 1990s are his prime; few could scat with his sincerity and creativity.

Recording: Fujitsu-Concord Festival (Concord Jazz, 481)

Tristano, Lennie (1919–1978). The pianist-teacher came up with a cool version of bebop in the mid-1940s, one that featured stunning unisons, constant melodic creativity over common chord changes, and quiet timekeeping rhythm sections.

Recording: Lennie Tristano/Thve New Tristano (Rhino, 71595)

Tyner, McCoy (1938–). Famous as John Coltrane’s pianist from 1960 through 1965, Tyner has remained a powerful and influential force ever since. His percussive style and chord voicings have been emulated by most modern jazz pianists.

Recording: Enlightenment (Milestone, 55001)

Valdes, Chucho (1941–). The Art Tatum of Cuba, Valdes has remarkable technique and is a true master of complex polyrhythms. He was the leader of Irakere for years and is the son of the notable pianist Bebo Valdes.

Recording: Live at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note, 20730)

Vaughan, Sarah (1924–1990). Vaughan had a wondrous voice with an opera singer’s range, and enough endurance to be one of the major jazz singers for forty-five years.

Recording: Crazy and Mixed Up (Pablo, 2312–137)

Venuti, Joe (1903–1978). Jazz’s first great violinist, Venuti often teamed up with guitarist Eddie Lang in the 1920s. After decades out of the spotlight, he was very busy during his final years, showing that his brand of classic jazz violin is timeless.

Recording: Joe and Zoot (Chiaroscuro, 128)

Waller, Fats (1904–1943). As a stride pianist, organist (jazz’s first), singer, songwriter, and frequently hilarious personality, Thomas “Fats” Waller was brilliant, very musical, and always entertaining.

Recording: Fats Waller and His Buddies (Bluebird, 61005)

Washington, Dinah (1924–1963). Washington was always proud of her ability to sing everything. She was best at blues, swinging jazz, and ballads, and had few competitors in the 1950s.

Recording: Mellow Mama (Delmark, 451)

Washington, Grover, Jr. (1943–1999). On tenor, alto, soprano, and even baritone, Grover Washington Jr.’s playing was full of soul and individuality. He was the top performer in rhythm and jazz and a real crowd pleaser.

Recording: Inner City Blues (Motown Jazz, 530577)

Weather Report (1970–1985). One of the premier fusion bands, Weather Report was Joe Zawinul’s brainchild and along the way starred co-leader Wayne Shorter and, for a few glorious years, Jaco Pastorius.

Recording: Black Market (Columbia, 65169)

Webster, Ben (1909–1973). One of the major swing-era tenors, Webster could roar like a lion or purr on ballads like a pussycat. Though famous for his three years with Duke Ellington, Webster had a long solo career afterwards, always playing with a great deal of feeling.

Recording: Music for Loving (Verve, 527 774)

Williams, Cootie (1910–1985). Bubber Miley’s replacement with Duke Ellington, Williams not only was a master with plunger mutes but also played very good open trumpet too. After starring with Duke from 1929 to 1940, he took a twenty-one-year “vacation,” returning for 1961 to 1974.

Williams, Joe (1918–1999). Williams came to prominence with Count Basie in the 1950s, singing such blues as “Everyday I Have the Blues” and “Going to Chicago.” He actually preferred to perform ballads and standards, and, truth be told, he excelled at everything he sang.

Recording: Every Night: Live at Vine Street (Verve, 833 236)

Williams, Mary Lou (1910–1981). She started out as a stride pianist and arranger for Andy Kirk’s orchestra, but Williams developed into a much more modern pianist and an inventive composer in her later years.

Recording: 1927–1940 (Classics, 630)

Wilson, Teddy (1912–1986). The definitive swing pianist, Wilson came to fame with Benny Goodman and led trios for decades afterwards, always sounding as if it were still 1935.

Recording: With Billie in Mind (Chiaroscuro, 111)

Woods, Phil (1931–). A major bebop altoist for fifty years, Woods has kept the music fresh by performing newer compositions and leading a regular quartet/quintet since the 1970s.

Recording: Bop Stew (Concord Jazz, 345)

Young, Lester (1909–1959). Young’s soft quiet tone on the tenor was innovative in the 1930s, and he was always a true original. Whether with Count Basie or on his own postwar dates, Young was the epitome of cool.

Recording: With the Oscar Peterson Trio (Verve, 521 451)

Zawinul, Joe (1932–). Originally a funky pianist with Cannonball Adderley who composed “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” Zawinul switched to keyboards and became the creative brains behind Weather Report. His work on synthesizer is still the pacesetter among keyboardists.

Recording: The Rise & Fall of the Third Stream/Money in the Pocket (Rhino, 71675)

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