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The Greatest Swing Jazz Musicians of All Time

Updated September 28, 2020 464 votes 116 voters 6.0k 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. 

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  • 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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  • Count Basie
    Video: YouTube

    Considered one of the giants of jazz, Count Basie played for swing dancers all over the country in the 1930s and 1940s, blowing away some of the most experienced dancers in the Savoy Ballroom. He was also involved in one of the greatest Battle of the Bands in history against Chick Webb at the Savoy Ballroom in 1938.

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