These 25 Performers Could Shape Jazz For Decades

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Veronica Swift has both a historical connection to the music and a desire to expand its artistic purview.

(Photo: Giancarlo Belfiore/Umbria Jazz)

​Welcome to our enthusiastic, optimistic look at the future.

Below, DownBeat presents short profiles of two dozen musicians who, like Veronica Swift, have the potential to shape the direction of jazz in the decades to come. DB

Yazz Ahmed

Fabian Almazan

Lakecia Benjamin

Theo Croker

Yussef Dayes

James Francies

Nubya Garcia

Morgan Guerin

Jazzmeia Horn

Shabaka Hutchings

Jimmy Macbride

Makaya McCraven

Camila Meza

Hedvig Mollestad

Nduduzo Makhathini

Adam O’Farrill

Junius Paul

Tomeka Reid

Alfredo Rodríguez

Joel Ross

Christian Sands

Veronica Swift

Luke Stewart

Camille Thurman

Kuba Więcek

These stories originally were published in the November 2020 issue of DownBeat. Subscribe here.



  • David_Sanborn_by_C_Andrew_Hovan.jpg

    Sanborn’s highly stylized playing and searing signature sound — frequently ornamented with thrill-inducing split-tones and bluesy bent notes — influenced generations of jazz and blues saxophonists.

  • Century_Room_by_Travis_Jensen.jpg

    ​The Century Room in downtown Tucson, Arizona, was born in 2021.

  • DonWas_A1100547_byMyriamSantos_copy.jpg

    “Being president of Blue Note has been one of the coolest things that ever happened to me,” Was said. “It’s a gas to serve as one of the caretakers of that legacy.”

  • MichaelCuscuna_Katz_2042_6a_1995_copy.jpg

    Cuscuna played a singular role in the world of jazz as a producer of new jazz, R&B and rock recordings; as co-founder of a leading reissue record label; as a historian, journalist and DJ; and as the man who singlehandedly kept the Blue Note label on life support.

  • Cecile_McLorin_Salvant_Ashley_Kahn_bu_David_Morresi_copy.jpg

    ​“She reminds me of my childhood and makes we want to cry,” Cécile McLorin Salvant, pictured here with writer Ashley Kahn, said of Dianne Reeves.


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