We know from this article about the huge number of jazz greats buried in New York's Woodlawn Park Cemetery. But there are many other jazz greats beyond Woodlawn's beautiful grounds. Learn more about these amazing musicians below. Their accomplishments often extend far beyond music.
Charles "Charlie" Parker, Jr. (August 29, 1920 – March 12, 1955)
Saxophonist and composer Charlie Parker was instrumental in the development of bebop, known for his revolutionary harmonic techniques. He was an icon for the hipster culture, thought of as an intellectual in addition to being an uncompromising musician.
In 1939, Parker moved to New York to begin his career in music. In 1942 he began playing with Earl Hines and Dizzie Gillespie. It was at a jam session with guitarist William "Biddy" Fleet that he realized the role of the chromatic scale in creating more dynamic solos. Parker was also interested in the addition of strings to jazz; the “Third Stream”, inspired by classical composer Igor Stravinsky among others.
Parker considered New York his home and asked to be buried there. Despite his wish to never return to Kansas city and his communication of his wishes to his partner, Chan Berg, his body was flown back to Missouri in accordance with his mother's wishes. For those who wish to pay their respects to this beat generation icon, he is buried at Lincoln Cemetery in Blue Summit, Missouri.
Ella Jane Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996)
Ella Fitzgerald is often referred to as “The First Lady of Song” for her incredible three octave range, pure tone and and incredible diction and phrasing, particular in scat. Asked to comment, she said “ I just tried to do [with my voice] what I heard the horns in the band doing.” Fitzgerald made her stage debut in December 1934, winning an amateur contest at the famous Apollo theater. She was ultimately signed by Chuck Webb in 1935, though Webb showed reservations at her perceived awkwardness. During her time with Webb, Fitzgerald co-wrote and became famous for “A-Tisket, A Tasket”, Upon Webb's death, the band was renamed “Ella and Her Famous Orchestra”, with her at the helm. She performed with them until 1942, when she started her solo career. Her 60-year recording career includes over 70 albums, 14 grammy awards, a National Medal of Arts and a presidential medal of freedom. Fitzgerald died in her Beverly Hills home at 79, and is buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.
John Coltrane (September 23, 1926 – July 17, 1967)
John “Trane” Coltrane is considered, along with Charlie Parker, to be the most influential saxophonist in the history of jazz. Besides his work with other greats such as Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk and work in the avant-garde style, Coltrane is known for his deep spiritual beliefs. He was inducted into the Down Beat Hall of Fame in 1965 and was awarded a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. He was buried at the Pinelawn Memorial Park in Farmingdale, NY after dying from liver cancer at age 40.
Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong (August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971)
Louis Armstrong is known as one of jazz's most inventive trumpeters and cornet players. Armstrong is known for his focus on solo performance, a practice he honed playing on New Orleans riverboats and steamboats. In addition to his ability as a trumpeter, “Satchmo” is known for his gravelly voice which he used to great effect.
Gillespie was one of the first African-American entertainers to “cross over”. Generally a non-political person, he stood up for desegregation during the crisis of the Little Rock Nine. In response to the government's inaction, he canceled a planned tour of the Soviet Union on behalf of the State Department saying "The way they're treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell". Also, captured in a memoir was his relationship with a Jewish immigrant family and his discovery of the discrimination they received at the hands of other whites. He wore a Star of David for the rest of his life, stating he learned from them how to live — “real life and determination”
He is known for hits such as “What a Wonderful World”, and “Ain't Misbehavin' and for bumping The Beatles off the BillBoard Hot 100 with his recording of “Hello Dolly!” This gave the then 63-year old performer the distinction of being the oldest person to have a number one hit. Armstrong died in 1971, just short of his 71st birthday. He is buried at Flushing Cemetery in Queens, New York.
Charles Mingus Jr. (April 22, 1922 – January 5, 1979)
Charles Mingus is known as a virtuoso jazz bass player, pianist, bandleader and composer. He began his career in the 1940's', touring with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory and Lionel Hampton. Mingus is known for many jazz standards including “A Foggy Day”. He also co-founded Debut records with Max Roach, which enabled him to manage his work independently. Traveling to Mexico for treatment and convalescence for his debilitating myotrophic lateral sclerosis, he passed away at age 56. His ashes were scattered over the Ganges River.
Thelonious Sphere Monk (October 10, 1917 – February 17, 1982)
Monk is known as the “High Priest of Bebop”. A composer, pianist and bandleader, he is known for standards “Round Midnight” and “Straight No Chaser” among others. He was awarded a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 1993 and a special pulitzer prize in 2006 for “a body of distinguished and innovative musical composition that has had a significant and enduring impact on the evolution of jazz.” After dying of a stroke on February 17, 1982, he was buried at Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum in Hartsdale, NY.
William James “Count” Basie (August 21, 1904 – April 26, 1984)
Joining Coltrane in Farmingdale, NY much later was his much longer-lived colleague Count Basie. Basie is widely known as an organist, bandleader, and composer of “One O'clock jump” and for his band's theme song, “April in Paris”. Basie started out in the then jazz hub of Kansas City before moving his band to New York in 1937 After dying in Florida at Age 79, he was brought to Pinelawn Memorial Park.
Benjamin David "Benny" Goodman (May 30, 1909 – June 13, 1986)
Benny Goodman was a clarinetist, bandleader and composer known as “The Kind of Swing”. Goodman started his life as one of twelve children in the Jewish ghettos of Chicago. When his dedicated father learned that the local Synagogue was lending instruments and giving music lessons for twenty-five cents a week, he signed his children up. Goodman learned to play the clarinet there and soon began taking lessons with Franz Schoepp of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
At 16, Goodman was invited by drummer and bandleader Ben Pollack to accompany his band to Los Angeles' Venice Ballroom. He soon journeyed back to New York to organize his own 12-piece band. Goodman broke the race barrier by including Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton and drummer Gene Krupa to his group, a change preceding by 10 years the famed integration of major-league baseball. Benny Goodman was also the first jazz bandleader to perform at Carnegie hall with his sold-out concert in 1938. He is known for performances of swing classics such as as “Sing, Sing, Sing”, “Beyond the Sea” and “In the Mood”.
Goodman was inducted into the DownBeat Hall of Fame in 1957. He holds honorary doctorates from honorary doctorates from Bard, Columbia, Yale, and Harvard among others. He is also a member of the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Goodman died in his Manhattan home at age 77 and was buried in Long Ridge Union Cemetery in Stamford, CT.
John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie (October 21, 1917 – January 6, 1993)
Dizzy Gillespie is known as a virtuoso trumpet player, bandleader, composer and singer. His style was so complex that it was almost impossible to recreate. Remembered as a virtuoso by fans and detractors alike, he was essential in the development of Bebop and as an influence on other musicians, including trumpeter Miles Davis.
He is known for compositions “A Night in Tunisia” and “Manteca” and for his famous bent trumpet. The original trumpet is said to be bent in an accident. He had it straightened out, but missed the sound of the bent version so had another one commissioned. He played on the bent trumpet from that time forward.
He is known as “The Ambassador of Jazz” for organizing a band to tour the Middle East in 1956 through the State Department. He received a lifetime achievement Grammy award and National Medal of the Arts from President George Bush. Gillespie died at the age of 75 and was buried in Flushing Cemetery in New York City.
Artie Shaw (born Arthur Jacob Arshawsky; May 23, 1910 – December 30, 2004)
Artie Shaw was a jazz clarinetist, composer and band leader. He led one of the US' most popular big bands from the late 1930'a through the early 1940's and is remembered as being one of jazz's greatest clarinetists.
Shaw began playing the saxophone at 13 and switched to clarinet at 16. 1935 brought him his first attention, when he played his "Interlude in B-flat" at a swing concert at New York's Imperial Theater. He was accompanied by only a rhythm section and a string quartet, a practice then considered innovative and an early example of the third stream style. He valued creativity and innovation over his success with songs such as “Begin the Beguine” and formed chamber groups experimenting with third stream. Shaw also signed Billie Holliday as his band's vocalist in 1938, making him the first white bandleader to hire a full-time black female singer.
Shaw was dubbed “The King of Swing” by DownBeat readers in 1938. He died at the age of 94 and was buried in Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park, Westlake Village, California.
David Warren "Dave" Brubeck (December 6, 1920– December 5, 2012)
Dave Brubek is a jazz pianist and composer known for jazz standards "In Your Own Sweet Way" and "The Duke". He was the leader of the Dave Brubeck quartet, founded in 1951. In 1959, they released the album “Time Out” with the Paul Desmond's “Take Five” the first quintuple-meter jazz piece to meet commercial success.
Brubeck received a Distinguished Artist Award from the University of Michigan's musical society in 2006. He also has an asteroid belt named after him. He also belongs to the California Hall of Fame. He died just short of his 92nd birthday and was buried in Umpaweg Cemetery in Redding Connecticut.