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10 Most Popular Female Jazz Singers

Music developed from blues and ragtime as well as defined by polyphonic ensemble playing, propulsive syncopated rhythms, improvisation degrees, and deliberate timbre and pitch distortions are jazz, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

And since this music genre was born, female jazz singers have continued to prove their dominance in what was a male-dominated space in music.  

There is no doubt because the most popular female jazz singers have always impressed their fans with their excellence and passion as jazz vocalists.

These most popular jazz singers have unique styles and voices and colorful personalities that mesmerize their audience.

In this article, we’re featuring some of our favorite top female jazz singers.

Who among them is your pick? Share that with us later.

So, without further ado, let’s present to you the most impressive female jazz singers of all time.

 

Ella Fitzgerald

She’s called the “First Lady of Song,” and indeed should top this list of the best female jazz singers that the world has ever seen.

She was from Virginia, but she became famous on the New York’s Apollo Theater stage.

Also called the “Queen of Jazz,” she’s loved for her impeccable diction and timing as well as intonation and phrasing.

The singer with a pure tone performed across the country with her success together with the Chick Webb Orchestra.

However, she’s also often associated with Savoy Ballroom (Harlem).

She took over the band when Webb died, but later left it to go on her solo singing career.

A few of her remarkable acts outside her solo career were her collaborations with the likes of The Ink Spots, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong.

Such partnerships had helped produce her popular songs, including ”Cheek to Cheek”, “ Dream a Little Dream of Me,“ and” It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got that Swing).”

Fitzgerald, whose accolades include 14 Grammys, performed for the last time after almost her 60-year career in 1993.

 

Sarah Vaughan

Her full-bodied voice and excellent intonation as well as her gorgeous vibrato make her “The Divine One” for many fans.   

Vaughan, before launching her solo career, sang with bands of Billy Eckstine and Earl Hines.  

Also called “Sassy,” Vaughan won four Grammys that including the prestigious “Lifetime Achievement Award”; she’s also a recipient of the NEA Jazz Masters Award (1989).  

For more of her honors and awards, her album “Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown,” and “If You Could See Me Now” was inducted into the hall of fame (Grammys).

The Grammy Hall of Fame was established to honor those recordings with a qualitative historical significance and are at least 25 years old.

Sarah Vaughan received a Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 1985, as well as was inducted into the “American Jazz Hall of Fame” in 1988.

The singer was also inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2012.

Every March 27th, there is also a day called Sarah Lois Vaughan Day in San Francisco and Berkeley in California.

 

Norah Jones

Born in New York but raised in Texas, Jones is a popular jazz vocalist who possesses a soft and mellow tone of voice that fans admire about her.

The singer was first known for her music back in 2002 in the launch of “Come Away with Me.”

In 2016, she made a comeback to jazz after years of exploring being a singer-songwriter.    

Nevertheless, Jones is one of the most admired jazz singers in the world.

 

Julie London

The singer is best known for her performance of “Cry Me a River,” a ballad of Arthur Hamilton.

Her immortal reading of this ballad has made her one of the most remembered female jazz singers in the world.

London also appeared in different TV shows and movies, aside from releasing 29 albums, with her last recording in 1981.

 

Billie Holiday

Eleanora Fagan in real life, Billie Holiday could communicate through her songs like no one else could.

She had a soulful voice that made her singing more memorable for her audience.

The American swing and jazz singer, also called Lady Day by Lester Young, her music partner and friend, was very influential on pop and jazz music.

According to the experts, Lady Holiday was the one who founded what they refer to as a different way of manipulating tempo and phrasing.  

The singer was also known not only for her jazz instrumentalist style of singing but also for her unique improvisational skills and vocal delivery.

She had her mainstream success in the 1930s-1940s on labels, like Decca and Columbia, but in the 1940s, she struggled with drug abuse and legal issues.  

Following her prison sentence, Holiday was able to perform at a remarkable sold-out concert at the Carnegie Hall.

And due to life events and altered voice, she received mixed reactions in her last recordings, including the Lady in Satin (1958).

 

Peggy Lee

The North Dakota born singer was known for her vocal minimalism and sensuality.

For Capitol Records, she enjoyed multiple hits before transferring to Decca, in which the singer recorded “Black Coffee” (1956).

However, her signature song was “Fever,” which was released in 1958; it represented her laidback and unique singing style.

The American jazz singer, songwriter, composer, and actress had a career that spanned for 7 decades.

With this long career, Lee made her mark in the industry and established a unique persona for herself; she also wrote music for films.

Lee, who recorded more than 1,100 masters and wrote more than 270 songs, also recorded different conceptual record albums that combine music and poetry.

 

Becca Stevens

Born from artists-parents, Stevens’ mother was a theatre and opera singer, while her father was a choral music composer.  

Together with siblings, she started performing at a young age in Tune Mammals, her family’s band.

Stevens is an accomplished jazz singer with 5 solo albums and 2 albums as a part of a band, with David Crosby’s Lighthouse Band and Tillery.

She is also a gifted musician who knows how to play different instruments, including charango, ukulele, and guitar.

Stevens, who has collaborated with artists, such as Snarky Puppy, David Crosby, Esperanza Spalding, and Brad Mehldau, has toured the world.

Stevens has also been a featured singer on the “The Confession” (“Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro,” a Grammy Award-winning record of Billy Child).

Nevertheless, she has a colorful and exciting career; in fact, she has sung opera, performed in local performances, and participated in musicals.

 

Gretchen Parlato

Born February 11, 1976 in Los Angeles, CA, she is a musician, songwriter, and singer who deserves to be a part of this list.

She is an accomplished jazz singer that has already recorded and performed with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding, Kenny Barron, Lionel Loueke, Marcus Miller, and Terence Blanchard.

‘Flor’ received the “Best Jazz Vocal Album” Grammy nomination, and it hit #1 upon its release on iTunes Jazz.  

The album also received #3 “Best of the Year Albums” (Jazzwise Critics Poll ’21).

Meanwhile, “Live in NYC” also received “Best Jazz Vocal Album” at the Grammy Awards, while also receiving a rating 4.5 (Downbeat Magazine), with its DVD placing #1 on the best music video list on iTunes.  

Receiving more than 30 international and national awards is 2011’s “The Lost and Found,” and this includes the “Expanded Critics Poll No. 1 Vocal Album” (Jazztimes) and Vocal Jazz Album of the Year (iTunes).

 

Etta James

The velvety voice behind “At Last,” Etta James, started singing at a very young age.

At five, James was already performing on the radio and singing for her church’s choir.

She has always stunned her audiences with ballads and duets and some popular songs that also include “I’d Rather Go Blind.”

However, her career didn’t start blossoming until the 60s following the release of multiple songs and signing with Chess Records.

 

Diana Krall

Emerging from Nanaimo, British Columbia, Diana Krall is a famous jazz vocalist-pianist that has already won three Grammy awards over her career.

The singer has a music background, having studied at the Berklee College of Music (Boston, Massachusetts).

She released her 1st album in 1993; however, it was the album “All for You: A Dedication to the Nat King Cole Trio,” that made her popular.

She’s also an accomplished singer who has collaborated with Tony Bennett, among other famous musicians.

 

Final Thoughts

Jazz, through the years, has made the music industry more interesting and exciting for millions of fans.

This genre isn’t only dominated by male artists but also the most popular female jazz singers, such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Norah Jones, among the rest we’ve featured here.

But then, you sure got your own take of the #1 jazz artist, and it’s okay.

There are also other female jazz singers that deserve to be a part of this list, and that’s what makes things more interesting. Can you share with us who your favorite female jazz singer is?

But at the end of the day, what matters is that these singers have made a mark in the genre and have made it more colorful.  

Who is your top jazz singer? Tell us in the comment section.

Did you like this article? Share it on Facebook today!

 

References

  1.     https://www.thefamouspeople.com/women-jazz-singers.php
  2.     https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/articles/the-top-10-female-jazz-musicians-you-should-know/
  3.     https://www.ranker.com/list/best-female-jazz-singers/music-lover
  4.     https://www.udiscovermusic.com/stories/best-female-jazz-singers-ever/
  5.     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ella_Fitzgerald
  6.     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gretchen_Parlato

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