Essential Jazz Artists

We hope you enjoyed this year's Essential Classical and Jazz Countdowns! Lists are at the bottom of this post.

That clean, clear, flexible, and soulful voice can only belong to "The Queen of Song," Ella Fitzgerald. She amazes us with her improvising, range, and pristine intonation sounding like a trumpet at times. And she makes us laugh out loud when she scats, sounding like she knows something we don’t.

But above all, Ella sounds like a lady, and one of the greatest jazz performers of any kind, of any time. You voted her the No. 1 Most Essential Jazz Artist.

Miles Ahead is the name of an album and a film, and also where Miles Davis falls in the Countdown. He's your No. 2 Most Essential Jazz Artist this year.

Don’t let that big smile fool you into thinking that Satchmo was only an entertainer. He was the most important pioneer in jazz. He basically re-invented trumpet playing. He was hugely popular in five decades and over many periods in jazz. With playing, singing, and even acting, Louis was the international ambassador for the American art form of jazz.

Even in a musical genre built on distinctive personality—jazz—the sound of Trane soars above. His tenor saxophone was unlike anything anyone had ever heard, then or since, and you voted him your No. 5 Most Essential Jazz Artist.

There are not enough letter O's in smooth when you’re talking about the Duke. Ellington was elegance personified. This band leader was refined in everything—from how he dressed, to his compositions, to his playing, to his connection with audiences. But no matter how smooth his manner or refined his looks, it all came down to one thing—“It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” And boy, did Ellington swing.

Melissa Gilstrap

Tenor saxophonist Larry McKenna is a Philadelphia legend, but the reach of his playing extends well past his hometown. Perhaps that’s why you’ve voted him our No.7 Essential Artist.

Called "the best friend a song ever had," Nathaniel Adams Cole was such a huge success in popular music that Capitol Records became known as “The House that Nat Built.” He was a leading jazz pianist, but it was his light and liquid singing of “Mona Lisa,” “Nature Boy,” and many other hits that won millions of fans in three decades. He's your No. 8 Essential Jazz Artist on WRTI 90.1

If it’s refined and sophisticated, but it’s jumping and swinging and striding all at the same time, you’re talking Count Basie, and you voted William James Basie the No. 9 Most Essential Jazz Artist.

Apparently last year’s Essential Jazz Artist Countdown was missing something warm, spicy, and soulful. You have spoken and let us know that one of the toasts of New Orleans should be celebrated…you elected Wynton Marsalis your No. 10!