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The Greatest Jazz Artists …According to The BBC

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To celebrate the EFG London Jazz Festival The BBC and Jazz FM in the UK created a pop up jazz radio station over this last weekend. During the course of the weekend there were programmes celebrating the greatest jazz artists of all time. These had been voted on by listeners and a top 10 created, from a list of 50 shortlisted musicians drawn up by a panel of BBC jazz presenters, Jazz FM presenters, jazz musicians, critics, and journalists.

According to BBC presenter Helen Mayhew said that Davis was “a very worthy musician to have been voted in” at the top of the 50 chart. “The epitome of cool and an iconic character, Miles was at the forefront of key developments in the sound of jazz through each decade of his long career,” she added.

Describing the top 10 as “the best of the best,” Radio 3’s Geoffrey Smith said the first three positions were all occupied by “immortals” of jazz music. “Duke, the orchestral master; Louis, the father of us all; and Miles, the essence of the ever-changing contemporary spirit.”

The Top 10 is here…
1. Miles Davis
2. Louis Armstrong
3. Duke Ellington
4. John Coltrane
5. Ella Fitzgerald
6. Charlie Parker
7. Billie Holiday
8. Thelonious Monk
9. Bill Evans
10. Oscar Peterson

The list of ten was drawn from a list of 50 possible contenders…possibly to some a slightly strange and skewed list…but such is the nature of these things

Abbey Lincoln
Art Blakey
Art Tatum
Betty Carter
Bill Evans
Billie Holiday
Bobby Wellins
Buddy Rich
Cannonball Adderley
Carmen Mcrae
Charles Lloyd
Charles Mingus
Charlie Haden
Charlie Parker
Count Basie
Dave Brubeck
Dianne Reeves
Dizzy Gillespie
Duke Ellington
Ella Fitzgerald
Esbjörn Svensson
Fats Waller
George Shearing
Gerry Mulligan
Gregory Porter
Herbie Hancock
Hugh Masekela
Jamie Cullum
Jan Garbarek
Jimmy Smith
John Coltrane
John Taylor
Keith Jarrett
Kenny Wheeler
Lester Young
Loose Tubes
Louis Armstrong
Mark Murphy
Mary Lou Williams
Miles Davis
Nina Simone
Norma Winstone
Ornette Coleman
Oscar Peterson
Pat Metheny
Sun Ra
Thelonious Monk
Tubby Hayes
Wayne Shorter
Woody Herman

Listen to our It’s OK To Like Jazz Here

91 Comments

91 Comments

  1. João

    November 16, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    Concordo plenamente!
    I fully agree!

  2. jim

    November 16, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    Umm…where is McCoy Tyner? Seriously?!!

  3. David O'Donnell

    November 16, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    Why am I not seeing Benny Goodman’s name on this list?

  4. john

    November 16, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    one and two need to switch…agree w everything else

  5. Fabrizio Sebastiani

    November 16, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    So, Coleman Hawkins, Wes Montgomery, and Django Reinhardt do not even make the top 50s? To leave room, say, for Bobby Wellins Jamie Cullum Mark Murphy and Norma Winstone? Gimme a break!

  6. Pete Hittle

    November 16, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    Where is Clark Terry’s name? Perhaps THE greatest Jazz trumpeter of all time, and greatest mentor to young musicians for nearly 75 years. His exclusion is an absolute travesty. As far as Miles…his greatest career break was when Clifford died in that car accident. Had Clifford lived, Miles would be a minor footnote in Jazz history….if that!

    • MV

      November 17, 2015 at 7:57 am

      You’re kidding right ?!
      Miles got lucky that Clifford died ???? He made a lot of changes in jazz, I’m not sure that Clifford was so innovating @ the same level of Miles.

  7. Jean Davis

    November 16, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    Mel Torme, Gene Krupa … this is an impossible list. Kai Winding and Bill Harris.

  8. graeme

    November 16, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    You dont feel a bit stupid creating a top 10 of jazz, seriously how silly .

    • BBJ

      February 4, 2016 at 8:09 am

      Absolutely agree. “top ten” lists, whether they be jazz, classical, pop, books,etc etc are invidious. It all depends on one’s tastes. How do you expect a devotee of New Orleans Jazz to pronounce on anything else> They are not qualified.

  9. Hal

    November 16, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    Somehow you left out the Modern Jazz Quartet the greatest Jazz Ensemble in the history of Jazz Music.

  10. Bert Dobben

    November 16, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Charlie Parker on 6th position? Come on! He invented Be Bop with Dizzy Gillespie (and Diz is not even in the list) and no one was such a breathtakingly good improviser as Bird. And he was at the same time so lyrical in his notes and tone.

  11. Ed Applebaum

    November 16, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    wow so off base.. where is Dizzy and no Sonny Rollins?

  12. B3

    November 16, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    …and no Lee Morgan or Hank Mobley? Not on the Top Ten, fine….but not at ALL?!

    • Ned Rodgers

      November 18, 2015 at 5:45 am

      …and no Bud Powell or Chet Baker or Horace Silver? Your list is way out of wack. It’s impossible to name the top 50 jazz artists.

  13. Steven Tanenbaum

    November 16, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    Today I’m going to listen to Sonny Rollins, Dinah Washington, Louis Jordan, Lee Morgan, Sidney Bechet, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Bud Powell, Charlie Christian, Earl Hines, Clifford Brown, Jo Jones, Bud Powell, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Freddie Hubbard, Stan Getz, Sonny Clark, Jackie McLean, Dexter Gordon, Ahmad Jamal, Art Pepper, Ray Barretto, Horace Silver, Leo Parker, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole Trio, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Grant Green, Mongo Sanataria, David Murray, Slim Galliard, Hank Mobley, Milt Jackson, James Moody, Professor Longhair, Sonny Stitt, Wynton Kelly, Ben Webster, Bessie Smith, Benny Carter, Big Joe Turner, Bobby Timmons, Johnny Hodges, Philly Joe Jones, Jay Mcshane, Cannonball Adderly, Chano Pozo, Jimmy, Giuffre, Coleman Hawkins, Jimmy Scott, Kamasi Washington, Curtis Fuller, Roy Eldridge, Gil Evans, Don Byas, King Pleasure, Johnny Griffin, Elvin Jones, Eric Dolphy, Erroll Garner, Esther Phillips, Gene Ammons, Pete Johnson, Harry Edison, Illinois Jacquet, Lionel Hampton, J.J. Johnson,

    • Ned Rodgers

      November 18, 2015 at 5:48 am

      It’s good to see someone still appreciates King Pleasure.

  14. Brian Coates

    November 16, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    Milt Jackson not listed.

  15. Ana Lucia Bizinover

    November 16, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    Am I dreamin’ or having a nightmare? It’ a impossible for all means to elaborate a list of the top ten. Duke Ellington stated modestly: the four grand names of the jazz are Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Charlie Parker and DJANGO REINHARDT. Ok. But a list , any list without SARAH VAUGHAN, CLIFFORD BROWN is just a Luna Park to someone with nothing to do. As a producer and a host of a jazz radio programme here in Rio (the last 8 years) I just identified all then, when broadcasting, as an icon of a giant of jazz. Even so, it isnt fair because taste is something subjective totally., Each one has its own favourites. As contemporary… Jammie Cullum and not Chris Botti. Repeating and highlihting: each jazzophile has their one greats in the hear. hello from Rio de Janeiro

  16. someguy

    November 16, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    WHERES GRANT GREEN!!!!!!!!

  17. Yimmy

    November 16, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    Down Beat magazine created the Percussionist category in their Readers Poll because of Airto Moreira’s genius. ’nuff said.

  18. Maxine Evans

    November 16, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    I might be a little biased but I would have loved to see Bill Evans a tiny bit higher 🙂

  19. Peter Alton

    November 16, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    …..Not a guitar player in sight ! Still, it is only someone’s opinion, so it’s popularity rather than ability, like most lists.

  20. Jude

    November 16, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    Where is Chet Baker??????????

  21. Reedth - big band lover

    November 16, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    Still missing Charles Mingus :/ also I don’t consider a consistent idea to make top ten out of many reasons, but on the other hand, it may help people whose are new to jazz, so there is a use

    • Ned Rodgers

      November 18, 2015 at 5:54 am

      I agree with Reedth-big band lover. Even though naming the top 10 or top 50 jazz artists is a useless exercise, for the most part, it may help people who are new to jazz get acquainted with who’s out there.

  22. Gerald Mason

    November 16, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    It is no such thing, not at this level, as the best…..that is way too subjective. Why not try something like the most influential??? Or just call it like most as people report it, favorite.

  23. Carolina Primi

    November 16, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    and Chet? There’s not Chet Baker!!!

  24. johan röing

    November 16, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    eric dolphy? anyone?

  25. Randy

    November 16, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    We’re Chet baker Clark terry Clifford brown and many others

  26. Chris Ferne

    November 16, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    Mary Lou Williams is a frankly astonishing omission from the top ten! Some of the names included were developers of the standards she and others had laid down. Largely agree with Ana Lucia Bizinover, also.

  27. Maxula

    November 16, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    U kidding…? I dont even see Django Reinhardt…and please, tell me where is Bessie Smith (RIP my Bessie…) ? And Coleman Hawkins ? You know “body and soul”…Have u ever heard about him…? Humm…And John Lee Hooker ? In the limbo maybe ?
    Miles in first…? Never ! Ha ! ha! the pope of cool jazz…cmon…!
    1. Billie Holiday…for jazzwomen perhaps Nina Simone)…
    1. Franz Peter Schubert…the greatest “jazzman” for ever !
    Listen the 8th…and u’ll understand…believe me…//Maxula

  28. mark

    November 16, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    Hank Mobley doesn’t make the top 50? Please

  29. Charles Keillor

    November 16, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    No Sarah Vaughan!? Sassy should be right up there with Ella and Billie.

  30. Wobbly

    November 16, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Fancy putting Miles Davis with his dreary sound in front of Satchmo. Why isnt America’s greatest composer the Duke at no. 1? Where is Goodman? How about Johnny Hodges?

  31. Ineke

    November 16, 2015 at 10:45 pm

    Benny Goodman?????????????????

  32. angela levey

    November 16, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    Stan Levey—he started with Bird & Diz–always left out. I have my ideas about :why”

  33. Don H

    November 16, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    If Clifford Brown’s name wasn’t even included in the 50 names to be considered, this is not at all a serious poll.

  34. KDYounger

    November 16, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    How did Horace Silver NOT make the top 50?

  35. David Fern

    November 16, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    Albert Ayler, Eric Dolphy, Jimmy Giuffre, Lee Konitz, Andrew Hill, Lennie Tristano, Anthony Braxton, HENRY THREADGILL!!!!

    • David Birk

      November 19, 2015 at 3:19 am

      A lot of the greats were in the top 10, but it’s a pretty safe list, over all. I’m with you, David Fern: now THAT’s music!

  36. David Fern

    November 16, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    And… And. For f**ks sake where’s Stan Getz??

  37. Samsuke

    November 17, 2015 at 12:19 am

    Waste of time.

  38. Brad

    November 17, 2015 at 12:27 am

    It’s as reasonable a list as any, but mine would have had Stan Getz, Sidney Bechet, MJQ, Sarah Vaughn, Django and Benny Goodman.

  39. Jonesing

    November 17, 2015 at 12:33 am

    With no Thad Jones to choose from, this was a flawed premise from the start.

  40. MoJazz

    November 17, 2015 at 12:45 am

    No Ray Brown, Wes Montgomery, Gene Harris?

  41. robert nuckels

    November 17, 2015 at 12:58 am

    You have DAVE BRUBECK on there instead of BUD POWELL ? brubeck is no player, he’s a composer . at least there’s not many GUITAR players on there: it’s like we can’t get away from that instrument. fine for celtic and classical and rock, but UNEVENTFUL for jazz. most of the ones i played with i locked horns with, with their attitude. there is many players on there that do NOT belong on ANY ‘greatest list’. the omission of bud powell AND art tatum is unfathomable. you might as well put KENNY GEE on THIS LIST . C’MON ! GET WITH THE REAL PROGRAM !

  42. zman210

    November 17, 2015 at 1:44 am

    Art Tatum, the greatest Pianist in Jazz History, isn’t in the top 50, really???

  43. peter ainsworth

    November 17, 2015 at 2:02 am

    Whereis goodman basie krupa Hampton, so many not mentioned .

  44. Ray Burns

    November 17, 2015 at 2:20 am

    You’re kidding…….NO GENE KRUPA !!!!!!!!!

  45. Russ Purdell

    November 17, 2015 at 2:51 am

    How can Horace Silver, Mingus or Dizzy, not
    be in the top ten? Grant Green was the most
    Recorded artist on Blue Note. No top 50?
    Not to mention Chick Cornea, Jaco, and what
    about Freddie Hubbard?

  46. Joan James

    November 17, 2015 at 3:14 am

    Where is Chet Baker? If he’s not on the list, which he isn’t, the list means nothing…period.

  47. Brian Meyer

    November 17, 2015 at 3:55 am

    No Stephane Grapelli and Django or Jean-Luc Ponty?

  48. Self Knowledge

    November 17, 2015 at 4:03 am

    You have one week to put Django Reinhardt in top 3.

  49. marc

    November 17, 2015 at 4:26 am

    A mishmash of masters and contempirary stylists, leaving out some of the best.

  50. Quinten

    November 17, 2015 at 4:30 am

    Brandon Allen

    Lighting up the town…. ….. ……. <3

  51. ed

    November 17, 2015 at 4:38 am

    Why is Dinah Washington always overlooked when it comes to these polls? When you talk about the Queen of Jazz and Soul, you can forget the rest… Dinah was the BEST!

  52. Quinten

    November 17, 2015 at 4:41 am

    Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Chet Baker, Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, …

  53. Patrick

    November 17, 2015 at 5:36 am

    CHET BAKER? Where is Chet Baker? I’d place him over many of the names on that list. Especially Jamie Cullum

  54. Robert Scurry

    November 17, 2015 at 6:02 am

    A man pioneers the saxophone in jazz and doesn’t even make the Top 50. Where is COLEMAN HAWKINS? Some people have short memories or are clueless.

  55. Robert Scurry

    November 17, 2015 at 6:05 am

    Also I’d try and make room in the Top 10 for Coleman Hawkins, Count Basie and Lester Young so drop Ella, Peterson and Evans

  56. Robert Scurry

    November 17, 2015 at 6:07 am

    Just noticed. No James P. Johnson. This whole thing is a farce!

  57. yaniv

    November 17, 2015 at 7:34 am

    Missing:Stan Getz.
    Finder will be rewarded !

  58. James P

    November 17, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Buddy Bolden. Freddy Keppard, Joe Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Jack Teagarden, Pops Foster, Jonny Dodds, JC Higginbotham, Lil Hardin all absolute stars in their own right don’t even get a ‘look in’ by the so called ‘high brows’ and afficionados. Well ‘pon my Soul!

  59. LuisE

    November 17, 2015 at 9:50 am

    What?? No Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis, JOE PASS, Grant Green, Max Roach, Lee Konitz, CLARK TERRY??????????

    • LuisE

      November 17, 2015 at 12:26 pm

      and no STAN GETZ, Sonny Rollins, Bud Powell, or Wes Montgomery?????

  60. David M

    November 17, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Kid Ory
    Muggsy Spanier
    Sydney Bechet
    Bunk Johnson

  61. Abstrakt Souzds

    November 17, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    HELLLLOOOOOOOOOOO

    What about Sonny Rollins, Pharoh Sanders, ALICE COLTRANE !!!

  62. Brandon Q

    November 17, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    I know…everyone has their own opinion.. I’d like to see Lee Morgan, Joe Henderson, Curtis Fuller, Freddie Hubbard, Charles Mingus, Jackie McLean, Eric Dolphy, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Tony Williams, Bobby Hutcherson, Dexter Gordon….but I do agree with Miles at the number one spot..

  63. de cort

    November 17, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Where is Lennie Tristano?

  64. Mahanisse

    November 17, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    John McLaughlin?!

  65. Pedro Correia

    November 17, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    What about Gil Evans and Wes Montgomery? Jim Hall, Django??
    Come on guys!!!!

  66. Dave Teves

    November 17, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    What? No CHET BAKER? No BRAD MEHLDAU?? I love Jamie Cullum but come on, Chet and Brad deserves more than Jamie.

  67. Gregory Goethals

    November 17, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    Wait!
    If Django Reinhardt and Fats Waller aren’t in the top ten, then the people who made this list don’t know nothing at all of Jazz music in my opinion!
    Fats : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xT-K2q7ksi4
    Django : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGmAkFWD3PA

  68. Kush Lescrooge

    November 17, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    I was getting worried till I saw Oscar peterson at no. 10. But all things considered i thing its a pretty good list.

  69. robert nuckels

    November 17, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    there’s a lot of gate-crashers on this list . You have Nina simone ? Where’s Sassy, Torme, Buddy greco? Where’s Stan Getz,Clifford Brown,Sonny Rollins,Jimmy Smith ? This list is overcrowded with mediocrities who have no business being on there . art tatum and bud powell, the two Luminaries of Jazz Piano, who influenced millions of other players . Then you insert DAVE BRUBECK ! He wrote a few good songs, but he was a TERRIBLE PLAYER ! Both Powell and Tatum were LIGHT YEARS ABOVE HIM ! It is quite clear that those who made this list were either not players, or not knowledgeable about what Jazz really is about . If anything, this list is only note-worthy about who WAS NOT on this list that SHOULD BE. a travesty……

    • Ned Rodgers

      November 18, 2015 at 6:17 am

      Robert Nuckels, you make some very good points which I agree with but Dave Brubeck a terrible pianist? No. I play piano and I play many Brubeck compositions. They’re very challenging. Granted, I’m not a real good piano player, for example, I can’t play Bud Powell or Oscar Peterson, and I can’t play Franz Liszt and I have a hell of a time with both Bill Evans and Johann Sebastian Bach But let’s give Dave Brubeck a break. His improvisations were unique and very inventive. I’ve heard him drift off into fantastical things during an improvisation that were so far afield from the melody that I thought he’d never get back, but he always did, in fine form. He’s always been an inspiration to me. (And I got to meet him and talk to him when I did a jazz radio program.) RIP Dave Brubeck and Long Live Dave Brubeck.

  70. Paolo Mannelli

    November 17, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    Lee Konitz not listed !

  71. Robert Scurry

    November 17, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    More glaring omissions. Two absolutely essential pioneers in Jelly Roll Morton and Sidney Bechet not even on the list. Oh well.

  72. Garry Harper

    November 17, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder….Peewee and a lot of others didn’t even make the list….I agree putting Miles Davis on top was boss but after that it gets fuzzy…..

  73. Mark Sweeney

    November 18, 2015 at 5:01 am

    No Sarah Vaughn??? Wow. I’d personally add Anita O’Day, Benny Goodman, Wynton Marsalis, Marian McPartland and Terence Blanchard.

  74. williamthomas

    November 18, 2015 at 5:33 am

    I would of put Duke #1 probably and Charles Mingus and Eric Dolphy should definitely make top ten! Charles Mingues Presents Charles Mingus alone is just on the next level

  75. Gohar

    November 18, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    Where is Tigran Hamasyan? ://
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wEf5Zu_ulY

  76. David

    November 19, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Hi what about Chet Baker!!!!!!!!

  77. Jazz dance

    November 19, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    Ahahahahahah

  78. Greg Belcamino

    November 22, 2015 at 4:27 am

    In addition to those already named: Archie Shepp? Jack DeJohnette? Andrew Cyrille? Elvin Jones? Lester Bowie? Cecil Taylor? Ben Webster?

    So, so myopic.

  79. Miguel Correa

    November 22, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    It’s hard the election, but I think that the list is very good!

  80. William Wilson

    November 22, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    No Paul Bley!! No Eric Dolphy!

  81. Chris

    November 24, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    As it is a UK complied list I can understand why several obvious omissions and a few unusual inclusions in the list of 50 , but its strange for the UK to leave out Stan Tracey , their excellent and innovative pianist.
    From the omissions surely there could have been included at least one guitarist , but would that be Charlie Christian or Django Reinhardt ? – how about including both ! … and I’d include Wes Montgomery also , and Jackie Byard among the pianists.
    So now I’ve got to find 5 to omit from the 50 so as to include my choices ,
    but better would be to expand the list to 100 so as to include a lot more notables , and the we can select a Top 25 from those , because Jazz includes a fairly broad spectrum of developed styles.

  82. steve

    February 17, 2016 at 2:59 am

    no disrespect against Billy Holiday, but with this list to choose from……not so much. also, I am a HUGE, HUGE Ella fan, but picking from this list……I don’t think so. I’m sure that the list makers wanted women and vocals to be represented, but not at the expense of listing integrity.

  83. HB

    December 16, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    How can You have a list of 50 that dies not include Wes Montgomery?

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