BBC list of Top Ten Jazz Artists of All Time

A reader clued me in to this list which was published in November 2015. (Votes were cast by listeners of BBC Radio and Jazz FM.) You may or may not agree that this is THE list of 10. But it would but almost impossible to disagree that these artists were all fantastic and hugely influential. I mentioned in a previous post that Miles was my favorite jazz artist ever. I already knew that that sentiment was shared by many so it’s nice to see him get his due here.

As to the rest, while I’ve enjoyed all their work, I have particular affection for Armstrong, Coltrane, Parker and Holiday. And now realize that I must spend more time – much more time –  listening to the others. (So much music, so little time).

Here’s a song with two of the greats together, Ellington and Coltrane. “In A Sentimental Mood.”

The full top 10 was derived from a short list of 50. (One of whom, Pat Metheny, I previously did a post on. I have posts planned on several of the others). The Beeb did a nice job by listing all 50 here, each with a 30-second sample representative song. (Because they don’t have the full rights to any of them).

There’s hardly a bad one in the bunch but just to point out a couple I really liked: “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” the Joe Zawinul-composed hit for Cannonball Adderly;  a terrific intimate number called “Café,” by British chanteuse Norma Winstone; “Naima,” (one of my favorites) by John Coltrane; “Wind Cries Mary,” by Jamie Cullum. (Yes, Hendrix!).

A couple of quick observations: I note that Pat Metheny is the only guitarist on the list, giving some idea of the relative importance of guitar in jazz as opposed to rock. (The sax is to jazz as the guitar is to rock). And there are a handful of British jazzers (no surprise I guess) that I’m not 100% sure would have made the list outside of Britain. (With the possible exception of George Shearing).

Anyway, without further ado, the BBC’s – or I should say the BBC’s listeners –  Top Ten are:

  1. Miles Davis
  2. Louis Armstrong
  3. Duke Ellington
  4. John Coltrane
  5. Ella Fitzgerald
  6. Charlie Parker
  7. Billie Holiday
  8. Thelonious Monk
  9. Bill Evans
  10. Oscar Peterson


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