40 voters

The Best Orchestral Jazz Artists of All Time

Updated June 4, 2019 167 votes 40 voters 4.7k views15 items

Orchestral jazz artists list, with photos, ranked best to worst by votes. This list of the top orchestral jazz artists of all time starts in the swing era and continues to today. These are truly the greatest orchestral jazz bands of all time, since the most famous orchestral jazz artists ever are listed, and the order is decided by actual fans of the best orchestral jazz music.

Examples include Tommy Smith and Charles Mingus. You decide which artists make up the top 10 by casting your votes right on this page. Is Fred Guy a better choice for the top of the list than Duke Ellington? Vote accordingly.

All important, significant and iconic names in orchestral jazz music history deserve your votes, so make sure to choose wisely. You can only vote once on this list.

  • Duke Ellington
    Photo: Hulton Deutsch / Getty Images
    Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974) was an American composer, pianist, and leader of a jazz orchestra, which he led from 1923 until his death over a career spanning more than fifty years.Born in Washington, D.C., Ellington was based in New York City from the mid-1920s onward and gained a national profile through his orchestra's appearances at the Cotton Club in Harlem. In the 1930s, his orchestra toured in Europe. Although widely considered to have been a pivotal figure in the history of jazz, Ellington embraced the phrase "beyond category" as a liberating principle and referred to his music as part of the more general category of American Music rather than to a...  more
    • Genres (Music): Orchestral jazz, Swing music, Big band, Dixieland
    • Albums: Côte d'Azur Concerts on Verve, The Blanton–Webster Band, American Freedom, Money Jungle, The Stockholm Concert
    • Nationality: United States of America

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  • Count Basie
    Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Public domain
    William James "Count" Basie (; August 21, 1904 – April 26, 1984) was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer. In 1935, Basie formed his own jazz orchestra, the Count Basie Orchestra, and in 1936 took them to Chicago for a long engagement and their first recording. He led the group for almost 50 years, creating innovations like the use of two "split" tenor saxophones, emphasizing the rhythm section, riffing with a big band, using arrangers to broaden their sound, and others. Many musicians came to prominence under his direction, including the tenor saxophonists Lester Young and Herschel Evans, the guitarist Freddie Green, trumpeters Buck Clayton and Harry "Sweets" Edison...  more
    • Genres (Music): Swing music, Big band, Piano blues, Jazz
    • Albums: Ella & Basie: On the Sunny Side of the Street, April in Paris, One O'Clock Jump, Basie, Satch & Josh... Again
    • Nationality: United States of America

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  • Benny Goodman
    Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Public domain
    Benjamin David Goodman (May 30, 1909 – June 13, 1986) was an American jazz clarinetist and bandleader known as the "King of Swing".In the mid-1930s, Goodman led one of the most popular musical groups in the United States. His concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City on January 16, 1938 is described by critic Bruce Eder as "the single most important jazz or popular music concert in history: jazz's 'coming out' party to the world of 'respectable' music."Goodman's bands started the careers of many jazz musicians. During an era of racial segregation, he led one of the first integrated jazz groups. He performed nearly to the end of his life while exploring an interest in classical music....  more
    • Genres (Music): Swing music, Big band, Jazz
    • Albums: The Famous Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert 1938, 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert, B.G. in Hi-Fi, Part One, Giants of Jazz
    • Nationality: United States of America

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  • Artie Shaw
    Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Public domain
    Artie Shaw (born Arthur Jacob Arshawsky; May 23, 1910 – December 30, 2004) was an American clarinetist, composer, bandleader, and actor. Also an author, Shaw wrote both fiction and non-fiction. Widely regarded as "one of jazz's finest clarinetists", Shaw led one of the United States' most popular big bands in the late 1930s through the early 1940s. Though he had numerous hit records, he was perhaps best known for his 1938 recording of Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine". Before the release of "Beguine", Shaw and his fledgling band had languished in relative obscurity for over two years and, after its release, he became a major pop artist within short order. The record eventually became one of...  more
    • Genres (Music): Swing music, Big band
    • Albums: Giants of the Big Band Era, Classic Artie Shaw Bluebird and Victor Sessions, Who's Excited, Big Band Bash, The Complete Gramercy Five Sessions
    • Nationality: United States of America

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