American / European music legends

The following list of players are included to provide a historical perspective of the "legends" of each of the popular styles of American and European music. The "legends" included are for the most part the composers of the music we love. Are most of the great composers great players too? Are most of the great players also great improvisors? Ah, the continual query of the impassioned learner.

With the theory roots of the American sounds from our European ancestors, the following menu simply makes this initial distinction. Choose a style and click to survey important personalities for each of the styles. As each legend included is a hyperlink, go on line and click their name to explore their stories and contributions, expanding our resources out on the world wide web. Here are the bookmarks into this page. Oh, if you have a fave not included here, let me know and I'll include it in the next edition ok?

American styles  
American symphonic composers. / Hall of Fame.
Blues. The core sounds of the American contribution.
Folk. Story tellers from the heartland.
Jazz. Artistic freedom meets musical virtuosity.
Pop. Reflective of our ever evolving free society.
Rock. Impassioned testimony.
European contributions
Early theorists. Originators of equal temper.
Medieval and renaissance masters. Antiquity to 1600.
Baroque era. 1600 to 1750.
Classicical era. 1750 to 1820.
Romantic era. 1820 to 1920.
20th century music. 1920 to present.

American Composers. Combining the Euro and American masters into one listing of players who musically shape the world in which we live.

John P. Sousa The "march" master, hear a Sousa march.
W.C. Handy "father of the blues"
Aaron Copland  
George Gershwin  
Lorenz Hart  
Cole Porter  
Bill Strayhorn writer / composer with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
Richard Rogers  
Antonio Carlos Jobim a Bossa Nova king, a gifted and prolific composer, guitarist and pianist, native of Brazil.

Blues. Blues theory.

Charlie Patton 1910's guitar / vocalist / composer
Son House 1920's guitar / vocalist / composer
Robert Johnson 1920's guitar / vocalist / composer
Mississippi John Hurt 1930's guitar / vocalist / composer
Leadbelly 1930's guitar / vocalist / composer
Bessie Smith 1920's vocalist
T Bone Walker 1950's guitar / vocalist / composer
Muddy Waters 1950's guitar / vocalist / composer
Little Walter / 50's 1950's harmonica / vocals
Ray Charles / 50's 1950's piano/ vocalist / gospel
B.B. King 1960's guitar / vocalist
Buddy Guy 1960's guitar / vocalist
James Brown 1960's soul / vocalist /
Eric Clapton 1970's guitar / vocalist / composer
Jimi Hendrix 1970's guitar / vocalist / composer
Johnny Winter 1970's guitar / vocalist / composer
Bonnie Raitt 1980's slide guitar / vocalist
Stevie Ray Vaughn 1980's guitar / vocalist / composer
Debbie Davies 1990's guitar / vocalist / composer
Kenny Wayne Shepherd late 1990's guitar / vocalist / composer

Folk and country music. Folk music theory.

Woody Gutherie 1930's guitar / vocalist / composer
Bill Monroe 1940's / bluegrass guitar / vocalist / composer
Johnny Cash 1950's folk / country guitar / vocalist / composer
Willie Nelson 1950's folk / country guitar / vocalist / composer
Hank Williams 1950's guitar / vocalist / composer
Pete Seeger 1950's guitar / vocalist / composer
Ralph Stanley bluegrass / country banjo / vocalist / storyteller
Patsy Cline 1950's vocalist
Bob Dylan 1960's guitar / vocalist / composer
Joan Baez 1960's guitar / vocalist / composer
Arlo Gutherie 1960's guitar / vocalist / composer
James Taylor 1970's guitar / vocalist / composer
Joni Mitchell 1970's guitar / vocalist / composer
Neil Young / 70's solo / bandleader / C.S.N.Y. folk rock / guitar
John Denver 1970's guitar / vocalist / composer
Dolly Parton 1980's guitar / vocalist / composer
Joan Armetraden 1980's guitar / vocalist / composer
Annie De Franco 1990's guitar / vocalist / composer
Jewel 1990's guitar / vocalist / composer
Garth Brooks / 90's - guitar / vocalist / composer
Clint Black / 90's - guitar / vocalist / composer

Jazz artists / jazz history / jazz theory

Scott Joplin  
Louis Armstrong trumpet, Dixieland jazz artist emerging in the 20's, perhaps the first true "soloist" in the jazz styling.
King Oliver trumpet, Dixieland jazz artist.
Sidney Bechet  
Fats Waller  
Benny Goodman  
Duke Ellington  
Glenn Miller  
Count Basie piano, known for his sparce, swinging melodic figures and feroscious big bands.
Art Tatum  
Charlie Parker saxophone, composer, a founding father of Bebop, America's most theoretically complex and difficult of the jazz styles.
Miles Davis trumpet, composer, innovator and leader for 4 decades.
Dizzy Gillespie  
Thelonius Monk  
Sonny Rollins  
Bill Evans  
John Coltrane saxophones, composer, father of modern American music.
Dexter Gordon  
Phil Woods saxophone, a strong, swinging bebop voice.
Clark Terry trumpet, Ellington / Basie alumni for decades, georgeous, seemingly endless improvised melodic lines created with circular breathing, tireless educator and inspiration to emerging talent.
Wayne Shorter  
Grover Washington Jr.  
Chet Baker  
Dave Brubeck  
Paul Desmond alto saxophone, composer of jazz classic "Take Five", signature tone and lyrical melodic master.
Bill Watrous trombone, simply an incredibly beautiful person and player.
Keith Jarrett  
Chick Corea  
Jaco Pastorius  
Michael Brecker  
Pat Metheny  
Billie Holiday  
Wynton Marsalis trumpet, master jazz improvisor and classical music interpreter, director of jazz program at Lincoln Center.

Jazz guitar. Jazz guitar harmonic theory.

Paul Asbell guitar, composer, jazz and blues monster, creating exciting, swinging jazz lines and scorching blues solos.
George Benson soulfull jazz and pop artist, consummate entertainer and swinging bebop / blues based guitarist.
Charlie Christian first of the amplified guitarists to emerge in the late 30's, thus an influential single line soloist, an early creator of Bebop at Minton's.
Pat Metheny composer, modern jazz master and pioneer of Latin / jazz grooves.
Wes Montgomery known for his distinctive, fingerstyle octave doublings of the melody, hardest swinging guitar player ever.
Joe Pass  
Emily Remler hard driving, bop and post bop wizard.
John Stowell modern bebop stylist, wide intervalic lines, blistering arpeggios and an unfailing modern sense of swing and rhythmic foward motion.

Pop. Pop theory.

Stevie Wonder  / 60's   Motown / drums / piano
Dianna Ross / 60's Supremes motown
Paul Simon / 60's Simon / Garfunkel folk / rock
Brian Wilson / 60's Beach Boys guitar / vocalist
Paul McCartney    
Elton John leader piano / vocalist
Joni Mitchell / 70's   folk / pop / guitar
Marvin Gaye / 70's various rock / soul / vocalist
Earth Wind and Fire / 70's   rock / soul / funk
Moody Blues / 70's   epic rock
Michael Jackson    
Kiss / 80's   glam rock
Madonna / 90's    
Pink Floyd / 80's   space rock
Barry Gibb / 80's Bee Gees disco
Donald Fagen / 80's Steely Dan pop rock / guitar

Rock. Rock theory.

Bill Halley / 50's the Comets vocalist
Buddy Holly / 50's leader rock and roll / guitar
Chuck Berry / 50's leader rock and roll / guitar
Jerry Lee Lewis / 50's leader piano / vocalist
Fats Domino / 50's leader guitar / vocalist / harmonica
Elvis Presley / 50's leader rock / ballads / singer
Jerry Garcia / 70's Grateful Dead folk / rock / guitar
Jimi Hendrix / 70's various blues rock / guitar
Duane Allman Allman Brothers Band blues / southern rock / guitar
Eric Clapton / 70's various blues rock / guitar
Rolling Stones / 60's originally blues based rockers with a little bit of country
Led Zepplin / 60's originally blues based hard rock / guitar
Jim Morrison / 70's Doors rock / vocalist
Moody Blues / 70's - epic rock
Steve Howe / 70's Yes modern rock / guitar
Patsy Cline / 50's - vocalist
Bob Dylan / 60's solo / bandleader guitar / vocalist / composer
Neil Young / 70's solo / bandleader / C.S.N.Y. folk rock / guitar
Garth Brooks / 90's - guitar / vocalist
Clint Black / 90's - guitar / vocalist
Motley Crue / 90's - punk rock
Van Halen / 90's Eddie Van Halen hard rock / guitar
Metalica Dave Mustaine heavy metal
Patti Smith / 80's - punk rock
Lou Reed / 80's various punk rock
B 52's / 80's - punk rock
Greenday / 90's - punk rock

European classical masters. Early theorists. Classical theory.

Antiquity to 1600.

Werkmeister, Andreas cycle of 3rds 1698, transition between modal and major / minor tonality.
Zarlino music theorist of the 16th century.
Kepler, Johannes  
Robertsbridge Manuscript early English music using 3rd's.

Medieval and renaissance masters. Antiquity to 1600.

Adam de la Halle Le Gieus de Robin et Marion
Albinoni adagio
Byrd Mass
Depres Missae
Dowland first book of Ayers
Dufay Motets
Gabrieli A. Ricercari / the glory of Gabrielli
Gesualdo Madrigals
Gibbons In nomine
Gregorian chant till the 16th century
Guillaume de Machaut La Messe Nostre Dame
Lassus Madrigals
Monteverdi Madrigals / Orpheo
Ockeghem Motets
Palestrina, Giovanni Missa Papae Marcelli
Perotinus Magister Viderunt omnes
Praetorius Terpsichore
Tallis Lamentations of Jeremiah
Weelkes Tudor church music

Baroque era. 1600 to 1750.

J. S. Bach well tempered clavier
C.P.E. Bach concerto for orchestra
Boyce Symphonies
Buxtehude organ music
Corelli concerti grossi, op. 6
Couperin concerts royaux
Frescobaldi harpsichord music
Gabrieli proccessionals and ceremonial music
Gesualdo madrigals
G. F. Handel Messiah / Watermusic
Lully ballet music
Pachelbel canon in D
Pergolesi concertos
Purcell anthems / Dido and Aeneas
Rameau, Jean keyboard works, chord inversions,
D. Scarlatti sonatas for harpsichord
Swelinck toccata in A minor
Telemann suites
Vivaldi four seasons

Classical era. 1750 to 1820.

L. Von Beethoven Symphonies 5, 9 / quartets 8, 14 / piano concertos 4, 5 / Fedelio / Missa Solemnis / sonata 21, 23
Cimarosa Concerto for Oboe
Dittersdorf Sinfonia concertante
Gluck Orpheo ed Euridice
F. J. Hadyn The Creation, quartet opus 76 # 3 / Symphonies 94, 101
W. A. Mozart Piano concerto # 20, 23 / Cossi Fan Tutte / quartet # 17 / Requiem / Symphont # 38, 41
Rossini Barber of Seville / William Tell Overture
Stamitz Quartet for Woodwinds
Weber Der Freischutz

Romanticism. 1820 to 1920.

Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique
Bizet L'Arlesienne: suites 1 & 2
Borodin In The Steppes Of central Asia
Brahms Academic Festival Overture / Symphony # 1
Chopin Concerto for Piano # 2, solo piano works
DeBussy Clare de Lune
Dvorak Symphony # 9
Elgar Pomp and Circumstance Marches 1 & 4
Faure Sonata # 1
Franck Symphonic variations
Glinka Russlan and Ludmilla  / overture
Indy Symphony on a French Mountain Aire
Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies
MacDowell Concerto # 2 for Piano
Mendelssohn Midsummer Night's Dream / Incidental Music
Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition
Paganini Caprice, op. 1 # 17
Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Ravel Bolero
Respighi Pines of Rome
Saint-Saens Symphony # 3, "Organ"
Schubert Quintet in A, "Trout"
Schumann Symphony # 3
Verdi Trovatore
Wagner Tristan und Isolde

Twentieth Century Music. 1920 to present.

Barber Concerto for Violin
Bartok Miraculous mandarin
Berg Wozzeck
Bernstein West Side Story
Bloch Schelomo
Boulez Piano sonatas
Britten Ceremony of Carols
Colgrass Three Brothers
Copland Appalachian Spring
Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue
Grofe Grand Canyon Suite
Hanson Symphony No. 2
Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphosis of themes by Weber
Honegger Pacific 231
Ives Three Places in New England
Kodaly Hary Janos, suite
Lutoslawski Concerto for Orchestra
Ornstein Quintet, piano and strings
Prokofiev Classical Symphony
Rochberg String quartet No. 2
Rosenberg Symphony No. 2
Schuman New England Triptych
Shostakovich Symphony No. 14
Skriabin Piano music
Sibelius Finlandia
Strauss Till Eulenspiegel
Stravinsky Firebird Suite
Vaughn Williams Fantasia on Greensleeves
Walton Facade
Weber Der Freischutz
Webern Symphony Op. 21, String Quartet Op. 28
Wolpe Quartet for trumpet, saxophone

Did I leave any out? Want to suggest an American or European legend who you think needs to be on this list? What's your idea?

"We are stronger together than we are alone."

Walter Payton