Using nothing more than simple instruments and an audacious will to improvise, these ten giants of jazz have taken us places no man has gone before. And they’re still here, still playing—and always dressed to kill. What a time to be alive.
Author: Nick Marino | Photography: Christian Weberwww.gq.com
Life on a string: A graduate of the Miles Davis Sideman University, Carter still tours and gigs around the world, leading his bands on the same upright bass he’s been using since 1960. “It’s on all these records,” he says. “I maintain it. It’s like having a Bentley.”
That herringbone suit: It was designed by his wife, the former model Quintell Williams-Carter.
Suit his own, shirt $345 Ermenegildo Zegna, hat $275 JJ Hat Center, scarf Kiton, pocket square Polo Ralph Lauren, shoes his own, bracelet Fratelli Rossetti, ring vintage
On sound: Between 1989 and 2015, Lloyd recorded his beautiful and painterly playing for art-music label ECM. But he’ll always be best known as one of the ﬁrst jazz artists to sell a million copies, with the 1967 live set Forest Flower.
Modeling side hustle: “Yohji Yamamoto has made a lot of clothes for me and invited me to model in Paris and in Tokyo. We share an aesthetic sensibility.”
Blazer $2,395 shirt $1,045 pants $2,095 Giorgio Armani, vintage beret Hermès, sunglasses Melissa Eyewear, rings vintage
Musical lane: A freethinking astral traveler and spiritual gangster, he’s the official saxophonist of your soul’s awakening. His deﬁnitive song may be “The Creator Has a Master Plan,” a 32-minute vision quest that journeys from moments of pastoral beauty to demon-purging squall—just like life itself.
The look: “I got tired of wearing suits and ties,” he says. “I decided I would look another kind of way.”
Legacy: The sax he played in his mid-1960s prime was as elegant and cutting as a samurai sword. The work included a torrent of solo material (Shorter recorded at least six albums between 1964 and ’65) and a coveted position in Miles Davis’s block-rocking “second great quintet” (with his buddy Herbie on piano).
On sight: “Miles used to say, ‘I can tell whether somebody can play or not by what they wear and how they move in it.’”
Greatest Hits: He was a key ﬁgure in jazz’s midcentury heyday, then went platinum with the 1973 fusion record Head Hunters, then embraced hip-hop on the smash 1983 single “Rockit,” and then won the Album of the Year Grammy in 2008 for a set of Joni Mitchell covers (with his buddy Wayne on sax).
Shop hard: “I don’t go shopping that often,” he says. “When I go out, I will get a lot of stuff ’cause I know I’m not gonna do this again for another year and a half. So I will just get everything that I could conceivably want. Spend that fortune!”
Coat $2,400 Jeffrey Rüdes, shirt $245 Sandro, vintage pants Etro, hat (on knee) $120 Stetson Cloth Hats & Caps, shoes Emporio Armani (his own), watch Chopard, ring David Yurman, sunglasses L.G.R
A little bit of everything: Nominated for a staggering 64 Grammys, Corea has embraced the possibilities of both acoustic and electric piano, dabbled in children’s and Latin and classical music, and even recorded a Christmas song with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
Fitter, Happier: “About ﬁve years ago I went on a plant-based diet, and I took off a hundred pounds. You can probably ﬁnd pictures on the Internet of me when I was 250—I’m now down to 140. I came down from a 44 waist to a 33 waist. None of my clothes ﬁt me anymore; I had to get rid of them all. It felt so good.”
Jacket $2,495 Ralph Lauren, scarf $175 Paul Smith
Mr. Smooth: Credit Ayers with putting the vibes in vibraphone. Mashing together jazz, funk, and disco boogie, he’s the master of 1970s-bachelor-pad grooviness that holds its edge.
Career highlight: Ayers still believes his slinky hit “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” is the best thing he’s ever done—and Dr. Dre apparently agrees. The song made the soundtrack to last year’s Straight Outta Compton biopic.
Coat $3,528 Louis Vuitton, sweater $2,895 pants $1,025 Giorgio Armani, fedora $240 Worth & Worth by Orlando Palacios, necklaces Degs & Sal (top) Renvi, ring David Yurman, bracelet John Hardy
Legacy: A heartbreaking balladeer who deﬁnes sophistication on the piano, he also spent years as a sideman to the adventurous John Coltrane, playing on My FavoriteThings and Trane’s transcendent masterpiece, A Love Supreme.
Suit $6,395 sweater $595 Ermenegildo Zegna, watch Chopard, ring and link bracelet John Hardy, cuff bracelet Le Gramme
Playing style: Taylor approaches the piano the way Jackson Pollock approached a canvas: with a wild sense of improvisational abandon that borders on violence.
Music (and fashion) as art: Never mind that he’s pushing 90. When Taylor performed this year at the Whitney Museum, he wore a chocolate beanie, ivory shoes, and a satin jacket printed with swirls of regal purple and gold.
Suit jacket $1,198 vest $598 pants $398 John Varvatos, shirt $195 PS by Paul Smith, necklaces, from top Tiffany & Co. Miansai, rings Cartier, vintage cap Burberry, bracelet and glasses vintage
Played with: Everyone you’ve ever heard of. For starters: Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, Thelonious Monk, Eric Dolphy, and Sarah Vaughan.
One of one: “I was having my clothes made at a young age,” says Haynes, who also drummed with saxophone godhead Charlie Parker back in the 1940s. “Even before I had a good gig, I was having stuff made. Some people would come to my gig to see what I was wearing—to see what the little M.F. was wearing.”
Blazer $2,150 Caruso, turtleneck $375 Boglioli, sunglasses Krewe, pants and ring vintage