Top 10 Oldest Living Jazz Musicians

Old In Years But Still Young At Heart

Well, now the proverbial jazz cat is out of the proverbial jazz bag.

Less than a week since first posting this list of the Top 10 Oldest Living Jazz Musicians, I've received dozens of emails with lists and lists of people I've missed. Clark Terry now drops to #3 behind 102-year old Lionel Ferbos and 95-year old Gerald Wilson and our original #2, Jimmy Heath, has plummeted to #18 (a drop similar to Tony Bennett, who cascaded from #3 to #20).

Jon Hendricks, Toots Thielmans, Eugene Wright, Sammy Nestico and Terry Gibbs are all now in the Top 10. For obvious humanitarian reasons, not to mention my own editorial sanity, I hope no one passes away until at least next week.

01
of 19

Irv Williams

96 Years Old (Born August 9, 1919)

  • Saxophonist
  • Known for his focus on the Great American Songbook (and his ability to play in any key)
  • Former public school teacher
  • Played with Ella Fitzgerald, Mary Lou Williams and Billy Eckstine
  • Still plays a weekly gig at the Dakota in Minneapolis
02
of 19

Jon Hendricks

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Jon Hendricks, 2014. Charles Norfleet/Getty

93 Years Old (Born September 16, 1921)

  • Cornerstone of jazz singing for over 50 years
  • Originator of "vocalese" style
  • Creator of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross
  • Called by Time magazine the "James Joyce of Jive" 
03
of 19

Toots Thielemans

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Toots Thielemans, 2007. Photoshot/Hulton Archives/Getty Images

93 Years Old (Born April 29, 1922)

  • One of the great harmonica players of all time.
  • NEA Jazz Master 
  • Recorded with everyone from Bill Evans to Billy Joel
  • Was also the guy who did the whistle in the Old Spice commercials
  • Retired this past March
04
of 19

Eugene Wright

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Eugene Wright with Sonny Clark, 1960. Michael Ochs/Getty

92 Years Old (Born May 29, 1923) 

  • Also known as "The Senator"
  • Best known as the bassist on Dave Brubeck's Time Out album
  • Also worked with Sonny Stitt, Gene Ammons, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday and many others
  • Only living member of the classic Brubeck quartet
05
of 19

Bob Dorough

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Bob Dorough, 1950. Tom Copi/Michael Ochs/Getty Images

91 Years Old (Born December 12, 1923)

  • Bop pianist
  • Worked with Miles Davis and Blossom Dearie
  • Influenced by Mose Allison
  • Composer of numerous tunes from the TV show Schoolhouse Rock
  • Arkansas Jazz Hall Of Fame inductee
06
of 19

Sammy Nestico

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Sammy Nestico (R) with Frank Stallone, 2006. Kevin Winter/Getty

 91 Years Old (Born February 6, 1924)

  • Composer and arranger
  • Best known for his work with Count Basie
  • Also worked with Bing Crosby, Sarah Vaughan, Toni Tenille and Barbra Streisand
  • Recorded a Basie inspired album with Quincy Jones 
  • Scored music for 70s TV shows (Charlie's Angels, Mannix, Mission:Impossible) and wrote jingles for Ford, Mattel and Dodge
07
of 19

Marshall Allen

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Marshall Allen. Seth Tisue/Creative Commons

91 Years Old (Born May 25, 1924)

  • Saxophonist
  • Student of James Moody
  • Occasional recording artist
  • Longtime associate of Sun Ra and, now, the leader of his orchestra.
08
of 19

Terry Gibbs

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Terry Gibbs, 1950. GAB/Redferns/Getty

90 Years Old (Born November 13, 1924)

  • Born Julius Gubenko
  • Played with Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Benny Goodman, Buddy Rich and
  • Also made frequent appearances on TV, including The Steve Allen Show during the 1950s
  • Published autobiography, Good Vibes: A Life In Jazz, in 2003

Click Next For Our "Bonus Old Guys (And A Gal)" Section and "Old Jazz Guy Honorable Mention"

09
of 19

Barbara Carroll

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Barbara Carroll, 2012. Daniel-Zuchnik/Getty

90 Years Old (Born January 25, 1925)

  • Classically trained; attended New England Conservatory
  • Dubbed "first girl to play bebop piano" in 1947 by Leonard Feather
  • Once toured with Rita Coolidge and Kris Kristofferson
  • Later became a cabaret player
10
of 19

Roy Haynes

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Roy Haynes, 2010. Earl Gibson III/FilmMagic/Getty

 89 Years Old (Born March 13, 1925)

  • One of the loosest jazz drummers ever
  • Has played everything from swing to bop to fusion
  • 33 albums as a leader
  • Recorded with Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Thelonious Monk, Eric Dolphy and Kenny Burrell, to name just a few.
11
of 19

Bucky Pizzarelli

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Bucky Pizzarelli (R) with son, John Pizzarelli, 2011. Clayton Call/Redferns Getty

89 Years Old (Born January 9, 1926)

  • Guitarist
  • Influenced by Django Reinhardt and Freddie Green
  • One time member of Dick Cavett's Band
  • 30 albums dating back to 1960
12
of 19

Randy Weston

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Randy Weston, 2006. Photoshot/Hulton Archives/Getty Images

89 Years Old (Born April 6, 1926) 

  • Pianist
  • Influenced by Duke Ellington and Thelonius Monk
  • First album: Cole Porter In A Modern Mood (Riverside, 1954)
  • Most recent Album: The Stroyteller (Motema, 2009)
  • Also record with Mingus
13
of 19

Lou Donaldson

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Lou Donaldson, 2003. KMazur/WireImage/getty

88 Years Old (Born November 1, 1926) 

  • Saxophonist
  • Heavily influenced by Charlie Parker
  • Has record nearly 50 albums
  • First recording: Quartet/Quintet/Sextet (Blue Note. 1954)
14
of 19

Jimmy Heath

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Jimmy Heath, 2008. Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images

 88 Years Old (Born October 25, 1926)​

  • Switch from alto to tenor sax because of Charlie Parker
  • Played with his brothers, bassist Percy Heath and drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath
  • Wrote most of Chet Baker and Art Pepper's Playboys album
  • Teaches at Queens College in NY
  • His debut album was called The Thumper
15
of 19

Dick Hyman

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Dick Hyman, c. 1960. Gilles Petard/Redferns/Getty

88 Years Old (Born March 8, 1927) 

  • Pianist
  • Has recorded over 100 albums
  • Has worked on a number of films as pianist, composer, conductor and/or music director, including more than 10 Woody Allen films
  • Has also composed for ballet and theater
16
of 19

Old Jazz Guy Honorable Mention

  1. Tony Bennett - 89 (Singer)
  2. Kelan Phil Cohran - 88 (Trumpet)
  3. Lee Konitz - 87 (Saxophone)
  4. Mose Allison - 87 (Piano)
  5. Ernie Andrews - 87 (Singer)
  6. Doc Severinson - 88 (Trumpet)
  7. Freddie Redd - 87 (Piano)
  8. Sheila Jordan - 86 (Singer)
  9. Jimmy Cobb - 86 (Drummer)
  10. Benny Golson - 86 (Saxophone)
  11. Cecil Taylor - 86 (Piano)
  12. Barry Harris - 85 (Piano)
  13. Marty Grosz - 85 (Guitar)
  14. Ornette Coleman - 85 (Saxophone)
  15. Sonny Rollins - 84 (Saxophone)
  16. Ahmad Jamal - 85 (Piano)
  17. Ira Sullivan - 84 (Trumpet)
  18. Plas Johnson - 84 (Bass)
  19. Charles Davis - 82 (Saxophone)
  20. Quincy Jones - 82 (Trumpet, Producer)
  21. Wayne Shorter - 81 (Sax)
  22. Warren Smith - 81 (Drummer)
  23. Curtis Fuller - 80 (Trombone)
  24. Tootie Heath - 80 (Drums)
  25. Harold Mabern - 79 (Piano)
  26. Ron Carter - 78 (Bass)
  27. Louis Hayes - 78 (Drums)
  28. Allen Toussaint - 77 (Piano)
  29. Marvin Stamm - 76 (Trumpet)
  30. McCoy Tyner - 76 (Piano)
  31. Herbie Hancock - 75 (Piano)
  32. John McLaughlin- 73 (Guitar)
  33. Chick Corea - 72 (Piano)
  34. Keith Jarrett - 70 (Piano)
  35. Anthony Braxton - 69(Sax)
17
of 19

Gunther Schuller

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Gunther Schuller, 2007. Hiroyuki Ito/Hulton/Getty

 90 Years Old (November 22, 1925 - June 21, 2015)

  • Son of a New York Philharmonic violinist
  • Played horn with the American Ballet Theater at 15 years old
  • Appointed to Cincinnati Symphony at age 20
  • Founded Modern Jazz Society with John Lewis in 1955
  • Invented "third stream" music, a combination of classical and jazz 
18
of 19

Those Dearly Departed

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Clark Terry 2001. Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Clark Terry

94 Years Old (December 20, 1920 - February 21, 2015 )

  • Swing and bebop trumpeter
  • Flugelhorn innovator
  • Educator
  • NEA Jazz Master
  • Played with Charlie Barnet, , Duke Ellington and Quincy Jones, among others.
  • Recorded over 85 albums
  • Still looks cool in shades

Gerald Wilson

96 Years Old (September 4, 1918 - September 8, 2014)

Joe Sample

75 Years Old (February 1, 1939 - September 12, 2014)

"Little" Jimmy Scott

88 Years Old (July 17,1925 - June 12, 2014) 

  • Singer
  • Suffered from Kallman's Syndrome, which causes him to have a pre-pubescent voice.
  • Debuted on Savoy in 1955 (Very Truly Yours)
  • Has appeared in several films including Passion Play, a 2001 drama that included Bill Murray and Mickey Rourke.
19
of 19

Lionel Ferbos

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Lionel Ferbos, 2012. Jeffery Ufberg/WireImage/Getty

103 Years Old (July 17, 1911 - July 19, 2014)

  • Trumpeter
  • Has performed at every New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival since its beginning
  • Still plays every Saturday night at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe in New Orleans
  • recently recorded with Irvin Mayfield