Jazz music, once called “American classical music”, was born out of African-American communities in the south and has inspired other genres such as blues, pop music and R&B. Like the music, the names of many great Jazz musicians are sometimes quirky, offbeat, and yet also established.
Almost all the names have fashion clout. From the popular Ella to the unusual yet wearable Mingus to the more off-the-wall Thelonious, these names combine culture and style. (Boys names are coded blue, girls names are coded pink and unisex names are coded green.)
Alberta – Alberta Hunter
Benny – Benny Goodman
Bessie – Bessie Smith
Billie – Billie Holiday, her given name was Eleanora Fagan
Calloway – Cab Calloway
Carmen – Carmen McRae
Cassandra – Cassandra Wilson
Chano – Chano Pozo, his given name was Luciano Pozo Gonzalez
Charlie – Charlie Parker, born Charles Parker Jr.
Cole/ Coltrane/ Coleman – John Coltrane/ Coleman Hawkins
Dinah – Dinah Washington
Duke – Duke Ellington, born Edward Kennedy Ellington
Ella – Ella Fitzgerald
Ellington – Duke Ellington
Etta - Etta James
Fletcher – Fletcher Henderson, born James Fletcher Hamilton Henderson, Jr.
Flip – Flip Phillips. If Flip seems too casual for a given name, it could be a lively alternative nickname for Phillip, a name that might be more popular if not for the stodgy image of the assumed nickname, Phil.
King – B.B. King, his given name was Riley B. King. B.B. stands for “Blues Boy”
Louis – Louis Armstrong
Lu – Lu Watters, his given name was Lucius Watters
Miles – Miles Davis
Mingus – Charles Mingus
Otis – Johnny Otis/ Otis Redding (who might be considered more of an R&B singer)
Parker – Charlie Parker
Peggy – Peggy Lee
Rainey – Ma Rainey, her given name was Gertrude Pridgett
Ray – Ray Charles, born Ray Charles Robinson
Stan – Stan Getz
Thelonious – Thelonious Monk
Considering most of these jazz greats were born in the late 19th and early 20th century—a time popular for revival names—their fashion appeal is not surprising. Miles, a name that has always been familiar, and could be classified as an underused classic, is at its highest rank ever at #115.
Some of the stage names were very memorable, most notably Dizzy Gillespie (born John Birks Gillespie), but would probably seem too strange for the birth certificate to most people. Some of the other memorable jazz names are not for everyone, but may appeal to the more daring among us. These daring, but not outside the realm of possibility, names include Calloway, Chano, Duke, Ellington, Flip, Mingus, Otis, and Thelonious.
This list is also a great source of inspiration for boys names, which often seem in short supply.
Readers: Which Jazz inspired baby names are your favorites?