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Jazz Radio Stations

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Listen to the best jazz radio stations online and learn more about jazz music. Listen to top jazz music sorted by cities and genres.

Introduction to Jazz

Perhaps one of the most serene and most perplexing genres of music, jazz has always been a sort of a puzzle for music enthusiasts. The roots of jazz encompass both blues and ragtime, as the genre famously evolved on the streets of New Orleans near the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. 

Some of the key elements of jazz that make it instantly recognizable are blues, swing, syncopation, along with a heavy emphasis on improvisation (based on the blues scale). In most cases, bands include the saxophone, trumpet, bass, drums, clarinet, trombone, flute, and the piano – and the wide array of instruments allows for the widest scope of European-like harmonisation on a familiar African rhythm. 

The specific nature of jazz allowed for a lot of creativity, meaning the artists were never bound by form. That is perhaps why jazz quickly spawned a myriad of styles, with New Orleans becoming the cradle of New Orleans Jazz, that you might also know as traditional jazz, hot jazz, or Dixieland. Today, you have dozens of jazz variants, including bebop, progressive jazz, acid jazz, hard bop, Latin jazz, gypsy jazz, bossa nova, free jazz, cool jazz, chamber jazz, and many others. Some of the most renowned artists include Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, Dave Brubeck, Nat King Cole, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Billie Holliday, Mary Lou Williams, Nina Simone, and many, many others. 

At its core, jazz is an amalgamation of European and African elements that have remained under the spotlight for over a century. If you want an introduction to the world of jazz, welcome.

Top 5 Radio Stations Playing Jazz

The best way to experience jazz and explore the genre is to listen to jazz radio stations from around the world. The thing with jazz is that, while still very popular, is not prevalent like pop or rock are. It’s not as easy to get introduced to new artists that easily, which is why attentively following the most popular jazz radios might be the best solution for jazz newbies. 

Here are the current top 5 radio stations playing jazz music worldwide. 

  • Jazz FM – Jazz FM is UK’s main jazz radio station playing jazz, blues, and soul music across the UK and Malta. If you are from the UK and are looking for the best radio with jazz, Jazz FM is the one. With its slogan “Listen in Colour”, Jazz FM offers a curated perspective on jazz’s finest artists, honoring both classics and contemporary musicians.
  • Radio Swiss Jazz – Radio Swiss Jazz is a Swiss radio station playing predominantly jazz music. The program offers a glimpse into the delicate nature of jazz by combining bebop instrumentalists with soft piano jazz sounds, vocal classics, and many other jazz currents. The team behind the radio covers a variety of programs for everyone’s tastes, too. 
  • BBC Radio 3 – BBC Radio 1 and Radio 2 are more popular than Radio 3, but this one distinguishes itself as the program featuring opera, classical music, jazz, world music, and culture & drama news. BBC Radio 3 is a gem for fans of classical music with a palate for jazz’s many facets. Radio 3 has been around since 1967.
  • ABC Jazz – ABC Jazz is a digital radio station from Australia broadcasting jazz and blues hits. The radio station belongs to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, also known as ABC. The ABC Jazz program includes a variety of formats and shows with jazz experts and avid enthusiasts you can listen from every part of the world. 
  • WBGO – WBGO.org is a jazz radio station broadcasting primarily jazz and blues notes to audiences living in New Jersey. It’s a public radio station broadcasting music, and it’s also available online. The station’s slogan is “Discover jazz, anywhere, anytime, on any device.” Be sure to tune in for WBGO’s special jazz programs introducing you to a slew of jazz legends. 

This is not the end, merely a start! Be sure to scroll the full list of jazz radio stations to discover more jazz stations and enjoy the soothing and upbeat sounds of jazz, fusion jazz, bossa nova, Latin jazz, and more. 

Featured Artists

Another important, yet seemingly difficult task is ahead of us – listing some of the biggest jazz artists of all time. This is especially difficult considering how many legends of jazz, blues, and soul have dedicated their lives to creating and perfecting the jazz beat. 

Nevertheless, here are some of the pioneers of jazz that spearheaded not only traditional jazz, but also oversaw the evolution of bossa nova, bebop, cool jazz, and other variants. 

  • Miles Davis – bebop, hard bop, and modal jazz would be nowhere without Miles Davis. A true pioneer of his trade, Davis constantly reinvented jazz with his instrumentals, and his ability to craft music by piecing together talented artists from different backgrounds still remains a key point for Davis fans. 
  • Ella Fitzgerald – Ella might not be known for her jazz career only, as her vocal capabilities transcend genres, currents, and even time. Her whirlwind fame came with Chick Webb Orchestra during the swing era, but she was a firm fixture under the spotlight until the late 1980s. 
  • Billie Holliday – A true champion of jazz, Lady Day, had a short and tragic career. Compared to her contemporaries, Holiday had a much shorter time under the spotlight, but what she achieved during her time put a mark on the music industry and continues to inspire younger generations. 
  • Louis Armstrong – There’s a reason why “Summertime” is jazz’s most famous song of all time. Armstrong, or Satch, is jazz’s most popular trumpeter and vocalist. He is most known for being among the first African Americans to bridge the gap between American and African Americans, he popularized scat singing, and gave musicians the liberty to celebrate individual soloists.
  • Charlie Parker – The man who made bebop a worldwide phenomenon, world-class saxophonist, and a daring innovator who always looked for ways to reinvent jazz, Charlie Parker left a legendary mark on the whole genre that few musicians can attempt to match. If you are a fan of saxophone jazz, you shouldn’t miss Charlie Parker. 


We could not finish this without mentioning some of the other names you have to know to truly experience jazz. As jazz began as music played by bands and only later recognized soloists, it stands to reason that most of these artists knew and worked with each other. Here are our honorable mentions for most popular jazz artists of all time:

  • Lester Young
  • Thelonius Monk
  • Dizzy Gillespie
  • Nat King Cole
  • Mary Lou Williams
  • Count Basie
  • Duke Ellington
  • Herbie Hancock
  • Chick Corea
  • Nina Simone
  • Ornette Coleman
  • Sonny Rollins

Popular Jazz Hits

Again, not an easy task, especially considering how many artists have been creating at the beginning of the 20th century, and how prevalent jazz has continued to be even 100 years later. 

The list of some of the most iconic jazz hits that everybody who’s at least a little bit interested in jazz should know include:

  • “Take Five”, by Dave Brubeck
  • “Summertime”, by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
  • “Strange Fruit”, by Billie Holiday
  • “So What”, by Miles Davis
  • “I Got Rhythm”, by Sarah Vaughn

Be sure to check out great jazz compilations to introduce yourself to other popular jazz hits by Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Lester Young, Chet Baker, and others. 

Popular Music Festivals and Events Jazz Fans

Jazz gatherings and festivals dedicated to the multi-faceted genre abound, and there are so many fests and events you can visit to enjoy good jazz music. 

The world’s biggest two are: 

  • Montreal International Jazz Festival
  • New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

but there are other gatherings you can also visit. Check for festivals in your area or neighbouring states/countries to see other jazz events! 

Contemporary Jazz: Top 5 Jazz Albums of the 21st Century

For many fans, true jazz is the sound of the 1940s, 1950s, even 1960s, and 1970s. Few consider newer jazz music and records canon for the jazz hall of fame, but that division is both discriminatory and very limiting for the fans. 

Modern jazz is a breath-taking celebration of the genre, and so it is important to keep an eye out on the contemporary jazz artists. Here’s a list of top 5 jazz albums made in the last 20 years or so that represent the 21st century-style of jazz. 

  • Mal Waldron: One More Time (2002)
  • Richie Beirach: Impressions of Tokyo (2011)
  • William Parker: Double Sunrise over Neptune (2007)
  • Cécile McLorin Salvant: The Window (2018)
  • Ambrose Akinmusire: On the Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment (2020)

Be sure to check out popular jazz radio stations to meet new artists and discover the poignant and vibrant world of jazz.