The Best 100 Jazz Quotes From Icons Of The Genre

Anusuya Mukherjee
Dec 12, 2023 By Anusuya Mukherjee
Originally Published on Mar 12, 2021
Jazz artists have talked about how influential jazz music can be

Jazz is a famous music genre that started in America’s New Orleans.

Jazz music is extremely versatile and is closely related to the blues music genre. Some of the most popular jazz artists include Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Jazz is said to have originated in 1895. Multiple jazz musicians have talked about the influence of jazz music on society. Additionally, studies have shown that listening to jazz can help increase creativity and reduce stress.

Are you looking for jazz quotes about life, roots of jazz quotes, famous jazz quotes from movies, famous jazz quotes about oppression, jazz quotes in 'Great Gatsby', or jazz quotes about living in the moment? You've come to the right place.

Jazz quotes from Louis Armstrong, Jazz quotes from Miles Davis, and Henry Ford are all inspirational. Read on for quotes about what it means to be human through music jazz and quotes about when jazz was invented.


Best Jazz Quotes

Here are some of the best jazz quotes and the best quotes on what jazz is.

1. ‘It bugs me when people try to analyze jazz as an intellectual theorem. It’s not. It’s a feeling.’

- Bill Evans.

2. ‘If it has more than three chords, it’s jazz.’

- Lou Reed.

3. ‘ If America has a future, Jazz has a future. The two are inseparable.’

- George Russell.

4. ‘Jazz is like a great void, it waits patiently until a brave musician takes control of space and time.’

- Chris Griffin.

5. ‘Jazz is not a what, it is a how.’

- Bill Evans.

6. ‘Jazz is the only music in which the same note can be played night after night but differently each time.’

- Ornette Coleman.

7. ‘One of the things I like about Jazz, kid, is I don't know what's going to happen next.’

- Bix Beiderbecke.

8. ‘The blues and jazz will live forever. So will the Delta and the Big Easy.’

- Jack Nicholson.

9. ‘Jazz stands for freedom.’

- Dave Brubeck.

10. ‘Forgive me if I don’t have the words. Maybe I can sing it and you’ll understand.’

- Ella Fitzgerald.

11. ‘Just because I’m playing jazz I don’t forget about me. I play or write me the way I feel through Jazz, or whatever. Music is, or was, a language of the emotions.’

- Charles Mingus.

12. ‘Boxing is like jazz. The better it is, the less people appreciate it.’

- George Foreman.

13. ‘Jazz is the big brother of Revolution. Revolution follows it around.’

- Miles Davis.

14. ‘By and large, jazz has always been like the kind of a man you wouldn't want your daughter to associate with.’

- Duke Ellington.

15. ‘It's the group sound that's important, even when you're playing a solo. You not only have to know your own instrument, you must know the others and how to back them up at all times. That's jazz.’

- Oscar Peterson.

16. ‘Rock and roll ain't nothing but jazz with a hard backbeat.’

- Keith Richards.

17. ‘Jazz has endured because it doesn't have a beginning or an ending. It's a moment.’

- Robert Altman.

Popular Jazz Quotes

Here are some of the most notable jazz quotes.

18. ‘How are you gonna be a revolutionary if you're such a traditionalist? You hold onto the past, but jazz is about the future.’

- Keith, La La Land

19. ‘I’ll play it first and tell you what it is later.’

- Miles Davis.

20. ‘Contrary to general belief, an artist is never ahead of his time, but most people are far behind theirs.’

- Edgard Varèse.

21. ‘A jazz musician is a juggler who uses harmonies instead of oranges.’

- Benny Green.

22. ‘Blues is to jazz what yeast is to bread–without it, it’s flat.’

- Carmen McRae.

23. ‘Art is self-expression. If you are expressing someone else’s personality, that is not art.’

- Bennie Wallace.

24. ‘What separates great jazz musicians from average ones is taste. Those who have taste consistently choose notes, tempos, timbres, and voicings that seduce and satisfy attentive listeners.’

- Marc Myers.

25. ‘Without jazz, life would be a mistake.’

- Boris Vian.

26. ‘Jazz is one of the best things that you can find in your life, it can always be your friend.’

- George Gershwin.

27. ‘If a Jazz musician plays someone else's song, he has a responsibility to make a distinct & original statement.’

- Todd Boyd.

28. ‘Anyone who understands jazz knows that you can't understand it. It's too complicated. That's what's so simple about it.’

- Yogi Berra.

29. ‘That's the thing about jazz: it's free-flowing, it comes from your soul.’

- Billy Crystal.

30. ‘Jazz was not only built in the minds of the great ones but on the backs of the ordinary ones.’

- Cab Calloway.

31. ‘The memory of things gone is important to a jazz musician.’

- Louis Armstrong.

32. ‘Jazz is the big brother of the blues. If a guy's playing blues like we play, he's in high school. When he starts playing jazz it's like going on to college, to a school of higher learning.’

- B. B. King.

33. ‘Eclecticism is the word. Like a jazz musician who creates his own style out of the styles around him, I play by ear.’

- Ralph Ellison.

34. ‘The thing to judge in any jazz artist is, does the man project and does he have ideas.’

- Miles Davis.

Jazz Quotes From Musicians

Here are the most awesome jazz quotes from amazing jazz artists.

35. ‘If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know.’

- Louis Armstrong.

36. ‘I hate Stanley Clark, but I have to admit he's playing Jazz whether I like it or not.’

- Lester Bangs.

37. ‘Jazz is an intensified feeling of nonchalance.’

- Françoise Sagan.

38. ‘It's taken me all my life to learn what not to play.’

- Dizzy Gillespie.

39. ‘I don't have a definition of jazz. You're just supposed to know it when you hear it.’

- Thelonious Monk.

40. ‘Jazz is a music made by and for people who have chosen to feel good in spite of conditions.’

- Johnny Griffin.

41. ‘There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind.’

- Duke Ellington.

42. ‘Life is a lot like’s best when you improvise…’

- George Gershwin.

43. ‘Musicians should never forget that we're blessed. We have a special gift that people can enjoy through us.’

- Ed Thigpen.

44. ‘Anyone can learn what Louis Armstrong knows about music in a few weeks. Nobody could learn to play like him in a thousand years.’

- Benny Green.

45. ‘Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life.’

- Art Blakey.

46. ‘The thing that is making jazz healthy today is that people are coming out of other backgrounds - from rock, folk, from ethnic music. It's changing the music, and for the better.’

- Billy Taylor.

47. .’..don't think of yourself as a jazz musician. Think of yourself as a human being who plays music.’

- Charlie Haden

48. ‘At heart, I've always been a jazz man.’

- James Brown.

49. ‘If I am playing any music at all it is jazz music.’

- Ginger Baker.

50. ‘To jazz, or not to jazz, there is no question!’

- Louis Armstrong.

51. ‘If you don't like Louis Armstrong, you don't know how to love.’

- Mahalia Jackson.

52. ‘I may be prejudiced, but I believe that jazz music has the strongest healing potential, and it's not just because I play it and love it so much.’

- Horace Silver.

53. ‘Make no mistake, this music is for everyone. Jazz is not an exclusive, elite club.’

- Christian McBride.

54. ‘Jazz music just resonates with the frequency of me.’

- Esperanza Spalding.

55. ‘A name doesn't make the music. It's just called that to differentiate it from other types of music.’

- Art Blakey.

Music And Jazz Quotes

Here are some music and jazz quotes by influential musicians that are soul-inspiring.

56. ‘Musicians are willing to give their entire lives to a moment, melody, lyric or chord that will stir the soul.’

- David Ackert.

57. ‘If you're gonna sing meaningful songs, you have to be committed to a life that backs that up.’

- Joan Baez.

58. ‘Don't be a perfectionist... leave that to the classical musicians.’

- Dave Brubeck.

59. ‘Jazz music is an aural souvenir of mankind's attempt to express the intangible, the heart, the soul, through art.’

- Maxwell Chandler.

60. ‘I never thought Jazz was meant to be a museum piece like other dead things once considered artistic.’

- Miles Davis.

61. ‘Anytime you strike the drums, you have to be aware that you’re creating a musical event.’

- Vinnie Colaiuta.

62. ‘I'm reserved, so I've always needed to find a way of opening up. Jazz helped me do that.’

- Renee Fleming.

63. ‘Folk and funk, rock and raga, can blend well with jazz.’

- Upendra Lal Singh.

64. ‘I’m an interpreter of stories. When I perform it’s like sitting down at my piano and telling fairy stories.’

- Nat King Cole.

65. ‘Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn.’

- Charlie Parker.

66. ‘I believe in using the entire piano as a single instrument capable of expressing every possible musical idea.’

- Oscar Peterson.

67. ‘Jazz is there and gone. It happens. You have to be present for it. That simple.’

- Keith Jarrett.

68. ‘I love jazz music and sad music. I'm a sentimental guy. I'm a romantic guy.’

- Fred Durst.

69. ‘Jazz is smooth and cool. Jazz is rage. Jazz flows like water. Jazz never seems to begin or end. Jazz isn't methodical, but jazz isn't messy either. Jazz is a conversation, a give and take. Jazz is the connection and communication between musicians.’

- Nat Wolff.

70. ‘Jazz is hitting the notes that no one else would hit, and comedy is saying words that no one else would say.’

- Tommy Chong.

71. ‘I think the people who are saying jazz has to sound a particular way, or, 'What you're doing isn't jazz,' are just scared because they can't do it.’

- Robert Glasper.

72. ‘Jazz is a fighter. The word 'jazz' means to me, 'I dare you. Let's jump into the unknown!’

- Wayne Shorter.

73. ‘Many jazz musicians affect a misunderstood-genius air when they play, which alienates the audience and breaks down the communications of the music. A musician's responsibility is to get as much of his art across as possible.’

- Gábor Szabó.

74. ‘Jazz is not background music. You must concentrate upon it in order to get the most of it. You must absorb most of it.’

- Horace Silver.

75. ‘Music is born out of the inner sounds within a soul; all the music that was ever heard came from the inner silence in every musician.’

- John McLaughlin.

76. ‘The value of jazz still has to be clarified. People involve themselves with its superficialities without digging for its soul.’

- Stan Getz.

Inspirational Jazz Quotes

Some of the most inspirational jazz quotes are listed below.

77. ‘You should never be comfortable, man. Being comfortable fouled up a lot of musicians.’

- Miles Davis.

78. ‘The idea is more important than the style or the contents of the style you're trying to play in.’

- Ornette Coleman.

79. ‘Poetry, like jazz, is one of those dazzling diamonds of creative industry that help human beings make sense out of the comedies and tragedies that contextualize our lives.’

- Aberjhani.

80. ‘No dictatorship can tolerate jazz. It is the first sign of a return to freedom.’

- Dave Brubeck.

81. ‘If you don't know what to play, play nothing.’

- Miles Davis.

82. ‘The great jazz instrumentalists taught me how to sing and interpret a song. They showed me how a horn can have as much personality as an actor.’

- B.B. King.

83. ‘Music is always for the listener, but the first listener is always the musician’

- Wynton Marsalis.

84. ‘In Jazz, like in America, the group works together toward a common cause with lots of room left for each individual to shine.’

- Richie Gerber.

85. ‘The beauty of jazz is that it's malleable. People are addressing it to suit their own personalities.’

- Pat Metheny.

86. ‘Though the Jazz Age continued it became less and less an affair of youth.’

- F. Scott Fitzgerald.

87. ‘A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.’

- Abraham Maslow.

88. ‘Jazz should be much less about stress on technical exhibitionism and much more on emotional content.’

- Booker Little.

89. ‘Music represents nature. Nature represents life. Jazz represents nature. Jazz is life.’

- Sonny Rollins.

90. ‘The point of jazz is, you do something and then you go on.’

- Van Morrison.

91. ‘I fear that I won't get better and that I won't have time to practice. To be called a ‘jazz musician’ - it's a big responsibility.’

- Esperanza Spalding.

92. ‘As any jazz musician knows, it takes flexibility and adaptability for improvisation to create beauty.’

- Doc Childre.

93. ‘You know, it's funny...when you're making money, people don't think you're playing jazz.’

- Pete Fountain.

94. ‘Some people are born with a brain that has this weird, magical mathematical thing that makes them an amazing jazz musician.’

- Andy Richter.

95. ‘Well, being a jazz musician is not a rose garden!’

- Toots Thielemans.

96. ‘I don't think of myself as a jazz musician but a medicine man.’

- Abdullah Ibrahim.

Funny Jazz Quotes

Here are a few fun-filled quotes from jazz musicians.

97. ‘Practice makes perfect, and nobody’s perfect, so why practice?’

- Kurt Cobain.

98. ‘I have won several prizes as the world’s slowest alto player, as well as a special award in 1961 for quietness.’

- Paul Desmond.

99. ‘There is nothing to keeping a band together. You simply have to have a gimmick, and the gimmick I use is to pay them money!’

- Duke Ellington.

100. ‘You know why I quit playing ballads? Cause I love playing ballads. ‘

- Miles Davis.


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Written by Anusuya Mukherjee

Bachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

Anusuya Mukherjee picture

Anusuya MukherjeeBachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".

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