Who are the Best Jazz Musicians of All Time?

There is nothing more relaxing than sipping your favorite alcoholic beverage (whiskey if we’re sticking to jazz tradition) while listening to the sweet melody of your favorite jazz musician.  This is the most ideal way to unwind after a busy day. When I’m choosing a jazz musician to which to listen, I struggle to make a decision because I have so many favorite artists. That being said, I have an extensive list of jazz musicians whom I think could be considered the best.  My list is so long, I could write a book. For online purposes, I’m going to share two of the best jazz musicians on my list.

And because I write a lot about Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and other legends…I’m going to share two of my favorite artists whom you might not have heard of yet:

Betty Carter

Born May 16th, 1929 in Flint, Michigan, Betty Carter spent her life perfecting an improvisational vocal technique that left her fans speechless.  Between her scatting and other complex vocal approaches, Betty proved to be one of the best jazz musicians of all time. In fact, the legendary Carmen McRae once stated, “There’s really only one jazz singer—only one: Betty Carter.”

Carter brought forth a breathiness to her singing which set her to be different than other musicians.  This combined with her unique attitude and interpretation of jazz made Betty an original icon.

In 1988, Betty won a Grammy for her hit album, Look What I Got!.  In 1997, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton.

Sidney Bechet

One of the first “best jazz musicians” in American history, Sidney Bechet was brought into this world on May 14th, 1897.  As a saxophonist, clarinetist, and music composer, Sidney loved creating music.

Sidney was one of the first “soloists” in jazz history, beating Louis Armstrong by just a few months.  He went onto inspire a multitude of legendary artists. Duke Ellington once said, “Bechet to me was the very epitome of jazz … everything he played in his whole life was completely original. I honestly think he was the most unique man to ever be in this music.”

Bechet’s career includes playing 1923 sides with Louis Armstrong in the Clarence Williams Blue Five; the 1932, 1940, and 1941 New Orleans Feetwarmers sides; a 1938 performance with the Tommy Ladnier Orchestra; and a 1939 recording of the famous song “Summertime”.

One cool note about Bechet is that he never learned how to read sheet music.  In fact, Bechet’s ability to listen and interpret music was so superb, he invented his own fingering style.

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