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Home LJS Podcast Jazz Tips and Advice LJS 66: 5 Most Important Jazz Musicians You Need to Listen To

LJS 66: 5 Most Important Jazz Musicians You Need to Listen To

Welcome to episode 66 of the LJS Podcast where today we are talking about 5 of the most important jazz musicians that you need to listen to. There are many important jazz musicians to talk about, but these five had an innovative impact on jazz and how it has evolved. If you want to be an educated jazz musician you need to check these musicians out. Listen in!

Listen to episode 66

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In this episode:

Louis Armstrong

Louis is one of the most celebrated jazz musicians in the world and is responsible for bringing jazz to the spotlight. His gravelly voice and iconic trumpet sound were trademarks of his big personality. Armstrong revolutionized the music by turning the focus on the individual soloist rather than just collective improvisation.

Album suggestions:

Any of the Hot 5 and Hot 7 sessions

Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald

Duke Ellington

One of the most important composers in the history of American music. He’s best known for the over 3,000 songs that he wrote in his lifetime. His band, The Duke Ellington Orchestra, is arguably one of the most important big bands of the swing era. Many of his compositions have become part of standard jazz repertoire. In addition to being a great composer and arranger, he was a great pianist and some later albums feature him as a pianist.

Album suggestions:

Ellington at Newport

And His Mother Called Him Bill

Jungle Nights in Harlem

Never No Lament

Money Jungle

Duke Ellington and John Coltrane

Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker is one of the most innovative musicians in jazz history with his pioneering of the bebop style. He led the bebop movement which turned the danceable music of the swing era into a virtuosic style which focused on the soloist over and above everything else. Musicians would pack the clubs to listen to him and attempt to mimic him. Many notable musicians such as Sonny Stitt, Jackie McLean, and Sonny Rollins come straight out of the school of Charlie Parker.

Album suggestions:

Yardbird Suite

The Complete Dial and Savoy Studio Recordings

Bird With Strings

(Look up any compilation as there are many)

Miles Davis

Miles Davis is an important musician in jazz for many reasons. The first thing to note is Miles played a vital role in every era of jazz from the bebop period to fusion. He played bebop with Charlie Parker and then led his own groups playing cool jazz, hard bop, free jazz, fusion and even pop. He was an innovator of modal jazz.

Another aspect of Miles’ importance was a unique ability to build bands of young musicians that eventually went on to become important jazz musicians themselves. John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderly, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, and John Scofield are just a few of the musicians that came out of his bands.

Album Suggestions:

(Look up Miles and Bird)

Prestige recordings (Cookin’, Relaxin’, Steamin’, Workin’)

Someday My Prince Will Come

Miles Smiles


Bitches Brew

In a Silent Way

John Coltrane

John Coltrane is known as one of the most influential musicians on Modern Jazz. He has a unique and powerful tenor sax sound which many have tried to imitate. Outside of his extraordinary playing ability, he is known as an innovator in jazz especially due to his harmonic structure “Coltrane Changes” which can be heard in songs such as Giant Steps.

Album Suggestions:

Miles’ Prestige Recordings

Blue Train

Coltrane Jazz

Coltrane Sound

Giant Steps


A Love Supreme

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Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


  1. Hi Brent – just to say thank you for all you work here. I’m going through all of the podcast during my lockdown (May 2020) and coming to Jazz Saxophone from non-jazz guitar. One of my favourite Blues Guitarists is Robben Ford – also played with Miles Davis in the early 60s.

  2. Hey Brent, thanks for all the suggestions. SOOO much to listen to.

    I've created a Spotify playlist with a bunch of this stuff on it. spotify:user:1284010985:playlist:4iF9NYpx62gdIhRhV3n5uh


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