Jazz

Don’t let that big smile fool you into thinking that Satchmo was only an entertainer. He was the most important pioneer in jazz. He basically re-invented trumpet playing. He was hugely popular in five decades and over many periods in jazz. With playing, singing, and even acting, Louis was the international ambassador for the American art form of jazz.

The great Ella Fitzgerald was born on April 25th, 1917, and sadly she died in 1996. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, "The Queen of Jazz" - also called "The First Lady of Song," left a lasting legacy on American song and jazz.

Even in a musical genre built on distinctive personality—jazz—the sound of Trane soars above. His tenor saxophone was unlike anything anyone had ever heard, then or since, and you voted him your No. 5 Most Essential Jazz Artist.

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Feb 3, 2017

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There are not enough letter O's in smooth when you’re talking about the Duke. Ellington was elegance personified. This band leader was refined in everything—from how he dressed, to his compositions, to his playing, to his connection with audiences. But no matter how smooth his manner or refined his looks, it all came down to one thing—“It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” And boy did Ellington swing.

Billie Holiday possessed one of the most distinctive singing voices in jazz, and was always stretching the boundaries, and improvising within the vocal line. In a life cut short by drugs and alcohol, "Lady Day" mesmerized audiences with her interpretations of standards such as “God Bless the Child.” But her version of the anti-lynching cri de coeur “Strange Fruit” became the “Marseillaise” of the Civil Rights Movement.

Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie have been credited with changing the face of jazz in the mid 1940s. They kicked it up a notch, and ushered in an era known as "modern jazz"—which some dubbed "bebop."


Charlie Parker, Credit: William Gottlieb

Yesterday’s No. 9 was Count Basie, and he influenced a kid from Kansas City who became the fastest, cleanest operator of an alto saxophone through the remote harmonies of bop that followed Big Band’s heyday. “Yardbird” or “Bird,” he was Charlie Parker. You voted this phoenix-like talent the No. 8 Most Essential Jazz Artist.

WRTI's Essential Jazz Artist No. 9: Count Basie

Jan 31, 2017

If it’s refined and sophisticated, but it’s jumping and swinging and striding all at the same time, you’re talking Count Basie, and you voted William James Basie the No. 9 Most Essential Jazz Artist.

WRTI's Essential Jazz Artist No. 10: Stan Getz

Jan 30, 2017

Tenor saxophonist Stan Getz was called “The Sound”; his warm, lyrical voice was legendary. The bop and cool jazz purveyor may be most well known, however, for bossa nova and his 1964 hit, “The Girl from Ipanema" from the GRAMMY-winning album with Brazilian guitarist João Gilberto, Getz/Gilberto. Getz is No. 10 in WRTI's Essential Jazz Artists Countdown.

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