All Those Jazzy Baby Names

Oct 8th 2018


If you’re looking for a name that embodies music, artistry, and innovation, why not explore the names of jazz legends? These individuals helped create our modern musical landscape, and left behind legacies of songs, performances, and cultural touchstones that are sure to inspire today’s families.

These names range from the uncommon to the popular, with plenty of Anglo surnames and retro sounds. Stylish and substantial, these fifteen names are sure to hit all the right notes.


Photo: Getty Images

Django. While some may connect this dashing name to Quentin Tarantino's Western film, music aficionados are sure to appreciate Django's jazz roots. Guitarist Django Reinhardt reportedly took his stage name from the Romani phrase for “I awake.” Django’s distinctive old-fashioned sound may appeal to fans of vintage choices.

Ellington. This English place name and surname feels sophisticated and refined, but it can be made friendlier by nicknames like Ellie, Tony, or Duke. The great jazz bandleader and composer Duke Ellington makes an admirable namesake, though modern jazz fans may also appreciate Elling (as in Kurt).

Rollins. Originally a diminutive of Roland, Rollins is a spirited option with a familiar sound - and might make a nice alternative to Collins or Riley. Known as the “greatest living improviser” in jazz, Sonny Rollins has been majorly influential to generations of aspiring musicians.

Coltrane. An Irish surname believed to derived from “young horse,” Coltrane balances masculine strength and contemporary style. John Coltrane was an early pioneer of “free jazz” along with his wife and sons, and remains one of the few musicians to have been given a Pulitzer Prize for his jazz contributions.

Byrd. A thoroughly musical choice, Byrd honors Donald Byrd, an American jazz and R&B trumpeter. However, fans of the “The Byrds” will appreciate their own jazz connection - Miles Davis helped the band sign their first record deal. A surname derived from bird-keeping, this lovely name combines natural elements with a respectable English style.

Calloway. Energetic and memorable, Calloway is a transferred surname believed to come from the French caillou, or “pebble.” Bandleader and scat singer Cab Calloway was known for his iconic performances at the Cotton Club in Harlem, and his legacy lives on in jazz singing worldwide.

Parker. The most popular name on this list, Parker has become an attractive unisex option in Anglophone communities for its simplicity and accessibility. It could work well as a subtle tribute to Charlie Parker, a jazz saxophonist and composer who helped pioneer the bebop music style.

Coleman. Derived from “Cole’s man,” or “servant of Nicholas,” this pleasant surname also lends itself to the sweet nickname Cole. One of the first jazz tenor saxophonists was Coleman Hawkins, who was instrumental in developing swing, big band, and bebop music.

Gillespie. Bright and lively Gillespie could make a daring choice alongside similar Irish picks like Kennedy or Callahan. It comes from a phrase meaning “servant of the bishop,” and offers retro nicknames like Gil or Gilly. One of the greatest jazz trumpeters in the United States was Dizzy Gillespie, who received his stage name from his wild and unpredictable performances.

Basie. While the etymology of the surname Basie is murky, it’s believed to be derived from Sebastian - and would make a great unexpected nickname for the longer choice, too. Count Basie, a jazz bandleader and musician, was known for his “big band” music and his wide-reaching influence on later jazz artists.

Herbie. Might this diminutive of Herbert finally have left behind its Love Bug connection? Popular at the beginning of the twentieth century, Herbert comes from the German for “bright army.” Herbie Hancock remains a leading jazz performer and might inspire modern parents to embrace this old-fashioned nickname.

Davis. While Miles continues to enjoy the spotlight, Davis may appeal to fans of the jazz legend who want something less common - Davis currently ranks at #492, while Miles ranks at #110. The name is derived from David, meaning “beloved,” with a slightly softer yet updated sound.

Montgomery. An English surname with a Southern twang, gorgeous Montgomery might be ready to move back onto birth certificates. It has clunky-yet-cool vibes, and quite a few characters in popular film and literature have worn the name. Early jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery ranks among the pioneers who developed the quintessential jazz sound.

Bix. One of the first jazz soloists known as the “Young Man with the Horn,” Bix Beiderbecke became a symbol of artistry and innovation for later musicians. The nickname was derived from the musician’s middle name, Bismark, but Bix stands on its own as an edgy alternative to Dax, Paxton or Jett.

Duke. While this noble title refers to Ellington, Duke also represents the category of “jazz royalty” - many musicians in the early twentieth century used such titles to brand their acts and show respect to leaders in the field. Members of this group include Count Basie, Queen Ella Fitzgerald, and dozens of others. With names like Pharaoh and Royal trending on popularity charts, perhaps the titles of jazz royals deserve new consideration.

Comments

1
By mk
October 14, 2018 8:30 PM

No names from female jazz greats? How about Billie, Etta, and Dinah, for some retro names?

2
October 15, 2018 10:42 AM

<3 I also thought of Billie. Tho not an obviously girl's name I like it and if she's asked why Billy with an ie she can say it was after Billie Holiday.  Also Ella after Ella Fitzgerald. 

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