Armstrong, Louis "Satchmo" (c. 1890-1971) Born Louisiana. Trumpeter and singer, and first internationally known jazz soloist. He introduced the music of New Orleans to the world inaugurated the style of improvisation, and was the first to record scat singing. His most influential recording may be "West End Blues" (1939), but his most famous is "Hello, Dolly" (1969).
Basie, William "Count" (1904-84) Born New Jersey. Pianist and bandleader. His brand of Kansas City jazz became the classic swing band style, featuring spare keyboard playing with a precise four-beat rhythm section. He started The Barons of Rhythm in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1935 and then moved to New York in 1936. His hits include "Jumpin' at the Woodside" (1938) and "Stay Cool" (1946).
Beiderbecke, Bix (1903-31) Born Iowa. Cornetist, pianist, and composer. Famous for his solos he was known as the first great white jazz musician. He advanced simple jazz into a more complex form built around improvisation and extended chords. His improvisations on "Singin the Blues" (1927) were much admired and imitated.
Carter, Betty (1930- ) Born Michigan. Vocalist noted for her scat singing, humming, moaning, and extraordinary technique. She performed with the bands of Max Roach, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and others from the late 1940s through the late 1950s.
Christian, Charlie (c. 1916-42) Born Texas. A major contributor to the bebop movement, he was also among the first to capitalize on the sound of the electric guitar. He was admitted for his innovative use of harmonic inversions, dissonance, and long strings of uninflected eighth notes. Major works include "Seven Comes Eleven," (1939) "Gone With What Wind," (1940) and "Breakfast Feud" (1941).
Coleman, Ornette (1930- ) Born Texas. Saxophonist and composer. He was a major influence on the avant-garde or "free-jazz" movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s, with a revolutionary style of breaking the restrictions of chords, ordinary harmony, bar lines, and tempered scales. Major recordings include "Something Else" (1958). "Congeniality" (1959), and "A Dedication to Poets and Writers" (1962).
Coltrane, John (1926-67) Born North Carolina. Tenor/soprano saxophonist, composer, and bandleader. His explosive style and angular melodic lines have influenced jazz musicians. He is credited with developing polytonality in modern jazz, and his quartet, which performed from 1960 to 1965, ranks among the best. His masterworks include "Giant Steps" (1959) and "A Love Supreme" (1964).
Davis, Miles (1926-91), Born Illinois. Trumpeter, composer, and bandleader. His lyrical and inventive playing made him a trendsetter for more than four decades. A major contributor to the bebop and cool forms of jazz, he pioneered the jazz-rock movement in the 1960s. His influential recordings include "Streamin'" (1956), "Kind of Blue" (1959), and "Bitches Brew" (1969).
Ellington, Edward Kennedy "Duke" (1899-1974) Born Washington, D.C. Pianist, composer, and bandleader. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he is considered the most important composer of big-band music. He wrote and arranged many jazz classics, popular songs, and blues or "mood" pieces. " Mood Indigo" (1930), "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" (1932), "Sophisticated Lady" (1933), and "In a Sentimental Mood" (1935) are among his many great recordings.
Evans, Bill (1929-80) Born New Jersey. Pianist, arranger, and composer whose soft harmonies, intricate voicing, and melodic improvising changed the sound of the piano in jazz. He earned national recognition for his playing in "Kind of Blue" (1959) with the Miles Davis Sextet.
Fitzgerald, Ella (1918-96) Born Virginia. Vocalist acclaimed for her pure tone, voice control, improvisation, and interpretation of ballads. Her first hit was "A Tisket, A Tasket" (1938) and she became world famous in 1946 when she sang with the Jazz at the Philharmonic concert series.
Gillespie, John Birks "Dizzy" (1917-1993) Born South Carolina. Trumpeter and bandleader who pioneered the bebop movement in 1945 along with Charlie Parker. His Latin-influenced sound and virtuosity in upper-register playing are evident in his compositions "Salt Peanuts" (1945) and "A Night in Tunisia" (1946).
Goodman, Benny (1909-86) Born Illinois. Clarinetist and bandleader known as the "Pied Piper of Swing." He played with symphony orchestras and pioneered interracial bands. His best-known recordings include "After You've Gone" (1935) and "Moonglow" (1936).
Hancock, Herbie (1940- ) Illinois. Pianist and composer whose highly individual keyboard style blends blues and bebop. He joined the Miles Davis Quintet in 1963 and helped expand the traditional jazz concept of the rhythm section and its relationship to the soloist. He contributed to the rock-jazz movement of the late 1960s and 1970s with his composition "Maiden Voyage" (1965).
Hawkins, Coleman (1904-69) Born Missouri. His powerful, original style and rich tone made him the dominant tenor saxophonist during the late 1930s and early 1940s. He played with Fletcher Henderson's orchestra (1923-43). His most celebrated recording is "Body and Soul" (1939).
Henderson, Fletcher (c. 1897-1952) Born Georgia. Bandleader, arranger, and trumpeter who pioneered the concept of the big band in the swing era. His best works include "Down South Camp Meeting" (1934), "Wrappin' It Up" (1934), and "King Porter Stomp" (1935).
Hines, Earl "Fatha" (c. 1903-83) Born Pennsylvania. Pianist and bandleader. He is known for his innovative "trumpet-style" single-note solos coupled with powerful rhythm and bass patterns. His best recordings include "A Monday Date" (1928) and "Skip the Gutter (1928) with Louis Armstrong.
Holiday, Billie "Lady Day" (1915-59) Born Maryland. Vocalist famous for her melancholy improvisations of ballads and popular songs. She was discovered by record producer and critic John Hammond in 1933 and sang with Benny Goodman, Lester Young, Count Basie, and other great jazz musicians. She developed a large public following with her recordings of "Strange Fruit" (1939) and "Lover Man" (1944).
Joplin, Scott (1868-1917) Born Texas. Composer and pianist who popularized the early jazz form of ragtime. His composition "The Maple Leaf Rag" (c. 1899) became an instant hit. His works include 33 rags, about two dozen songs, and a ragtime opera.
Lewis, John A. (1920- ) Born Illinois. Pianist and composer known for applying classical forms to jazz based on improvisation and carefully worked-out changes of tempo, key, meter, and instrumentation. He was one of the pioneers of cool jazz and founded the Modern Jazz Quartet. His noted works include "Bluesology" (1956) and "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" (1957).
Miller, Glen (1904-44) Born Iowa. Trombonist, arranger and star bandleader during the big-band swing era. His distinctive sound combined a clarinet and four saxophones "In the Mood" (1939) and "Better git it in your soul" (1959).
Monk Thelonious (1917-82) Born North Carolina. Pianist and composer noted for his spare style, slow tempo, and distinctive phrasing. Monk was a major contributor to bebop. "Round About Midnight" (1947) and "Criss Cros" (1951) are among his many important compositions.
Morton, Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" (c. 1890-1941) Born. Louisiana. Pianist, composer, and preeminent soloist who recorded about 175 sides and piano rolls between 1923 and 1929. Combining blues, rags, and marches, he is considered the first important jazz composer. His influential works included "The Pearls" (1919), "Wolverine Blues" (1923), "Grandpa's Spells" (1923), and "Smoke-house Blues" (1926).
Parker, Charlie "Bird" (1920-55) Born Kansas. Alto saxophonist and composer whose virtuosity and inventive melodic lines made him a major influence in bebop. "Groovin' High" (1945) and "Out of Nowhere" (1948) are among his most innovative solos.
Reinhardt, Django (1910-53) Born Belgium. Considered the most important jazz guitarist. His swing style of playing was characterized by a full sound, strong rhythms, salvos of sixteenth notes, vibrato, and surprising melodic lines. Notable works include "Tiger Rag" (1934) and "Stardust" (1935).
Smith, Bessie (1894-1937) Born Tennessee. Vocalist considered the greatest of all the classic blues singers. She achieved the height of her fame in the 1920s pioneering jazz-oriented blues. Her best recordings include "Down-Hearted Blues" (1923) and "Cold in Hand Blues" (1925).
Tatum, Art (1910-56) Born Ohio. Pianist known for his dazzling high-speed arpeggios and elaborate runs stretching the length of the keyboard. Tatum was the premiere pianist of New York's Swing Street clubs from the 1930s through the 1950s. "Tea for Two" (1923), "Tiger Rag" (1933), and "Stompin' at the Savoy" (1953) are among his many great recordings.
Vaughan, Sarah "Sassy" (1924-90) Born New Jersey. Vocalist renowned for her operatic power, elegant phrasing, and extraordinarily wide range. She became popular while singing with Billy Eckstine's band in the mid-1940s. "Lover Man" (1945), recorded with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, established her reputation.
Walker, Thomas "Fats" (1904-43) Born New York. Pianist, songwriter, and entertainer. Walker's jazz ragtime style of playing in the 1920s and 1930s made many of his songs jazz standards. His notable works, "Honeysuckle Rose" (1929) and "Ain't Misbehavin'" (1929), brought him fame as a satirical songwriter and entertainer.
Williams, Mary Lou (1910-81) Born Georgia. Pianist, arranger, and composer. Known as "the first female instrumentalist in jazz," she created harmonically innovative arrangements ranging from swing to avant-garde. She arranged scores for the bands of Earl Hines, Benny Goodman, and Duke Ellington. Her most famous composition is "Zodiac Suite" (1945).
Young, Lester "Prez" (1909-59) Born Mississippi. Tenor saxophonist and premier soloist credited with transforming the "hot" jazz of the 1930s into the "cool" jazz of the 1940s and 1950s. His influential recordings include "Shoe Shine Boy" (1936), "Lady Be Good" (1936), and "Lester Leaps In" (1939).