35 Honorary Americans

by admin on December 1, 2008

So you have your European jazz street cred, you have your American jazz street cred, and then you have your rare transatlantic musicians who can lay claim to both.  I thought it might be interesting to come up with a list of European jazz musicians who have become household names for Americans.  Whether or not they are/were true “innovators” is open to question, but their American successes have clearly made them heroes in their respective countries. Think of them as the Dirk Nowitskis and Vlade Divacs of jazz.

In memoriam
Creative Commons License photo credit: bobtravis

Note that there are plenty of young Europeans currently living in America who seem to be vying for spots on the list.  Norwegian guitarist Lage Lund or French pianist Jean-Michel Pilc spring to mind.  Also vying are European stars like Gianluca Petrella, Erika Stucky and Esbjorn Svensson (r.i.p.), who have made significant inroads in the United States in recent years.  Not to be forgotten are European avant-gardists like Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Irene Schweitzer, Misha Mengelberg, Han Bennik, Gunter Hampel, Alex von Schlippenbach and plenty of others who are well known to American free jazz and experimental communities.  And of course Norma Winstone, Bobo Stenson, Tomacz Stanko, Arild Anderson, Eberhard Weber and many, many others would have made the list were I more confident that Americans were familiar with ECM’s jazz catalog.  Without further ado:

  1. Django Reinhardt
  2. Joe Zawinul
  3. George Shearing
  4. John McLaughlin
  5. Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen
  6. Dave Holland
  7. Toots Theilemans
  8. Michel Petrucciani
  9. Stéphane Grappelli
  10. Jan Garbarek
  11. Miroslav Vitous
  12. Marian McPartland
  13. Kenny Wheeler (via Canada)
  14. George Mraz
  15. Jean-Luc Ponty
  16. Kai Winding
  17. Dusko Goykovich
  18. Mino Cinelu
  19. Marilyn Mazur
  20. Victor Feldman
  21. Bireli Lagrene
  22. John Tchicai
  23. Cleo Laine
  24. Albert Mangelsdorff
  25. Gábor Szabó
  26. Tete Montoliu
  27. Alan Holdsworth
  28. Martial Solal
  29. Enrico Rava
  30. George Gruntz
  31. Django Bates
  32. Courtney Pine
  33. Jacques Loussier
  34. The Real Group
  35. Dado Moroni

Rhythm section players dominate this list.  For interesting speculation as to why this may be the case, check out Mike Heffley’s book, Northern Sun, Southern Moon: Europe’s Reinvention of Jazz.

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