10 Best Jazz Bands

A list of the ten best jazz bands is a matter of personal taste and a full listing could undoubtedly include hundreds of bands. There are a handful of bands that make everyone's best jazz band list. Individual musicians of the jazz bands on this list came and went,  but a few stayed with the original jazz band. Some bands play a mixture of music genres, including rock and blues, but this group of famous jazz bands confined their sound to the sweet, pure jazz. 

  1. Modern Jazz Quartet. The brainchild of Milt Jackson, Percy Heath, Kenny Clarke and John Lewis in 1952, the group is known for jazz stylings that include Smooth, Be-bop and Third Stream. Connie Kay took over for Clarke on drums in 1955. The group blended vibraphone, bass, drums and piano.
  2. Art Ensemble of Chicago. The Ensemble is a modern jazz group featuring Roscoe Mitchell, Lester Bowie, Famoudou Don Moye and Malachi Favors. The group plays jazz in the Chicago style and first released an album in the 1960's. 
  3. Weather Report. At the height of performances, the group included noted jazzer bass guitarist Jaco Pastorius, co-founder Josef Zawinul and sax player Wayne Shorter in a collection of jazz fusion. Weather Report was founded in 1970 and gradually disbanded by 1986. 
  4. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Blakey became a jazz name after playing with this group, but he came on the scene with this group composed of 17 players first organized in 1947. Art is known for his Be-bop stylings and jazz drumming.
  5. String Trio of New York. A jazz chamber group formed in 1977, the group consists of John Linberg on bass, Billy Bang featured on the violin and James Emery on guitar. Bang left in 1986 and a series of replacements took over, including Charles Burnham, Diane Monroe and Regina Carter. The groups first record was released in the late 1970's.
  6. Duke Ellington & His Orchestra. Although also a proponent and master of Swing, Duke Ellington and his crew had the jazz touch that many moderns wish they could master. Duke's orchestra gave a forum to many a budding jazzer over the years. Ellington performed until his death in 1974.
  7. Kid Ory's Original Creole Jazz Band. Back when jazz was in its infancy, Kid Ory's jazzers toured the country to audiences who wondered at this strange music. The group was a hit in big cities like New Orleans and Chicago, but the rural folk who listened to the group couldn't quite get in the groove. The Creole Jazz Band is a pioneer and one of the ten best jazz bands in the history of the genre. 
  8. The Wolverine Orchestra with Leon Bismark "Bix" Beiderbecke. The Wolverine Orchestra featured the talents of a young Bix, as he became known in the mid-1920's, on a few scratchy 78 rpm records. Bix played cornet and trumpet, Jimmy Hartwell on clarinet, Bob Gillette on banjo, Dick Voynow on piano, Vic Moore on drums, Min Leinbrook on bass and George Johnson on tenor sax. The group stormed out of Hamilton, Ohio and into Chicago, a jazz center in 1923.
  9. The New Orleans Rhythm Kings. Another pre-World War I touring band, the Kings took the major urban centers by storm but kept the rural folk mystified. NORK, as they were popularly known, performed live throughout the 1920's. The band featured jazzers from New Orleans, Chicago and Indianapolis. 
  10. The Hot Five Band with Louis Armstrong. Louie Armstrong played long after his split with the Hot Five Band, but it was the first jazz group that brought the young horn man to prominence in the jazz world. The band recorded and performed during the 1920's, but aside from Armstrong, the band's personnel rotated.
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