There is a classic book that came out in 1995 titled How the Irish Saved Civilization. It is a fascinating history of the contributions from this tiny green island.

In light of St. Patrick’s Day, commemorating a guy who did a thing or two to help Ireland and Western Civilization, I’ve composed a list of the TOP TEN IRISH-AMERICAN JAZZ ARTISTS with accompanying comments. So, have a Guinness and give a toast to them all!

  • Bing Crosby-arguably America’s (and jazz’s) most influential singers, starting the line which continued through Frank Sinatra. Crosby’s musical wake was so great that singers afterward were described as a “high Bing” or a “low Bing.” He did material back in the days of Bix Beiderbecke and was the only true rival of Louis Armstrong
  • Gerry Mulligan-best known for his landmark work with Chet Baker, the baritone saxist was also a fantastic arranger, and did a bit of acting as well!
  • Anita O’Day-Her unique vocal delivery defined bebop, but she also had an influential career with big bands of Gene Krupa and Stan Kenton. Her career maker was her drop dead fantastic read of “Sweet Georgia Brown” at the Newport Jazz Fest, captured on film as was her unforgettable hat.
  • Rosemary Clooney-people forget that she was a formidable singer for two different eras, the vintage swing years, and when she redefined herself in the 80s with some rich modern sounds. Oh, yes, she was also in the Christmas classic White Christmas with you-know-who.
  • Bunny Berigan-because he died at the young age of 36, people have forgotten how important this trumpeter was. His solo on Benny Goodman’s “King Porter’s Stomp” is unforgettable, as is his own glorious singing and playing on a definitive “I Can’t Get Started.”
  • Harry Connick Jr.-Once considered the heir to Sinatra, Connick has never left his New Orleans jazz roots. I even saw him in concert playing only jazz tunes, and his quartet was swinging like crazy! I heard that he acts a bit as well.
  • Tommy Dorsey-this trombonist/band leader had one of the most popular units of the Swing Era, not only starting Frank Sinatra on his road to fame, but being the only guy who was more brash than his drummer Buddy Rich. Dorsey’s breathing technique was highly influential on Blue Eyes as well.
  • Jimmy Dorsey-The fighting Irishman broke up with his brother early in his career, but was probably the better of the two at actually playing. Charlie Parker claimed that Dorsey was his biggest musical inspirations, so there you go!
  • Helen O’Connell-associated with Jimmy Dorsey, O’Connell was a gorgeously toned canary, making fame with a definitive take of “Green Eyes.”
  • Kyle Eastwood-son of the famed actor, Eastwood splits his time between composing amazing soundtracks for films and putting out hard swinging bop albums as a bassist

BONUS-Tommy Flanagan-OK, maybe he’s a ‘black Irish’, but the classy pianist definitely has the name, as does “Red” Allen.

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