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The Greatest Swing Jazz Musicians of All Time

Updated September 28, 2020 475 votes 111 voters 5.8k views

Here are the top-20 Greatest Swing Jazz Musicians of All Time. Many of the musicians on this list were bandleaders as well as sidemen, creating some of the most innovative and improvisational music ever. Their passion for music drove the impact they had on dancers, performers, and shows like. Additionally, many of these musicians greatly impacted the progression of music genres and future great musicians who would debut their revue later on. 

Check them all out. Up vote the best musicians you like, and down vote the ones you dislike. And while swing music may not be your favorite, there's enough complexity, sophistication, and nuance in the music, that anyone who appreciates music can respect what these guys did. Feel free to add on anyone who may have been left out. 

  • Benny Goodman
    Video: YouTube

    Known as the "King of Swing," Goodman's career began when he purchased all of Fletcher Henderson's songs. Goodman had one of the first well known integrated bands and performed one of the most successful and popular concerts in history, the famous 1938 Carnegie Hall concert, making swing music become "respectable."

    This arrangement of "Sing, Sing, Sing" is probably one of the most recognizable and well known swing songs today.

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  • Louis Armstrong
    Photo: u/badran28 / Reddit

    Louis Armstrong, known for his big personality and raspy voice, was a pioneer of trumpet and cornet playing in the early 1920s, during the birth of jazz. His career began when he played with Fate Marable, which toured on a steamboat traveling on the Mississippi River. 

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  • Duke Ellington
    Video: YouTube

    Although better known for his darker, moodier, and more nuanced compositions, Duke Ellington often played swing at the Cotton Club in New York City, performing alongside vaudeville dancers. He hated referring to his music as "jazz," as he considered it restrictive and low brow.

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  • Jimmie Lunceford
    Video: YouTube

    Jimmie Lunceford's Orchestra was known for its good sense of humor and tight musicianship. They got their big break at the Cotton Club in Harlem in 1934, but because of WWII and the fact that Lunceford didn't pay his sidemen, his band declined. He career came to an abrupt end when he collapsed and passed during an autograph session in 1947. It's believed that he had been poisoned by the restaurant he had eaten at a few hours before for being forced to serve people of color. His band members also became ill within a few hours of eating there.

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