Raise your Jazz Hands
Turn up the volume: The best place to experience one of America's greatest art forms is at Jazz at Lincoln Center, set right inside The Shops at Columbus Circle. In honor of Jazz Appreciation Month, we caught up with Seton Hawkins, Director of Education Resources and Public Programs, to get his picks for the top five jazz artists you need to know. Whether you’re a longtime fan or a newcomer to the music, this list will have you tapping your toes in no time.
The Artist: Louis Armstrong
Why: There were many who came before and many who came after, but Louis Armstrong was the first towering genius of jazz. His trumpet abilities were swinging, warm, and inviting.
Listen To: Look for recordings with the Hot Five — they are all fun and wonderful.
The Artist: Duke Ellington
Why: Duke is still considered America’s greatest composer. He wrote some of the greatest jazz standards, and his music cut across decades of American history.
Listen To: “Such Sweet Thunder” is a cool album, with jazz inspired by Shakespeare’s words.
The Artist: Billie Holiday
Why: Billie Holiday’s singing was unparalleled. She had an ability to take any pop song, whether it was brilliant or banal and turn it into something moving and personal.
Listen To: Billie Holiday was famous for her work with tenor saxophonist Lester Young. “A Musical Romance” is the best example.
The Artist: Miles Davis
Why: Miles was amazing: He helped create bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, fusion, and more. When he died in 1991, he was even fusing jazz and hip hop.
Listen To: “Kind of Blue” came out in 1959 and is considered one of the greatest jazz albums of all time.
The Artist: John Coltrane
Why: Coltrane — the greatest tenor sax virtuoso ever — created a sound and style that is the dominant aesthetic that many jazz musicians still follow today.
Listen To: “A Love Supreme” is also held up as one of the greatest albums of all time. The cohesion of the band is jaw dropping.
These artists are all part of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame. You can vote on the 2017 Hall of Fame list here. The legacy of each inductee will be celebrated during curated sets on July 18-20, 2017 at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. Viewers can also tune in via live webcast at jazz.org/live.
Jazz at Lincoln Center: courtesy of Jazz at Lincoln Center
Louis Armstrong: photo by William Gottlieb/courtesy of Jazz at Lincoln Center
Duke Ellington: photo by William Gottlieb/courtesy of Jazz at Lincoln Center
Billie Holiday: courtesy of Jazz at Lincoln Center
Miles Davis: photo by Tom Palumbo/Wikimedia
John Coltrane: photo by Hugo van Gelderen/Wikimedia