Singing Jazz: The Singers and Their Styles

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Billie Holiday entered into the world of jazz singing in the early s, explaining: I don't feel like I'm singing, I feel like I'm playing the horn. Holiday had a comparatively limited vocal range of just over an octave , and compensated for this shortcoming with nuanced phrasing and emotional immediacy, qualities admired by a young Frank Sinatra. Many notable post war jazz singers sang with these bands in the infancy of their careers. With the end of the Swing era, the touring Big bands of the past decade were no longer a viable option, and the demise of the typical big band singer was further complicated by the advent of bebop as a creative force in jazz.

The rise of bebop saw new jazz singers such as Ella Fitzgerald rise to fame, furthering the notion of "free voice" - giving instrumental qualities to the voice through timbres , registers and tessitura. Around the same time, the long-playing record LP was invented, freeing musicians from the time constraints of the extended play record EP. The LP , being more expensive, was aimed at the adult audience who could afford to spend the extra money on records. Though constrained by the material, Ella Fitzgerald's Songbook series introduced a great many people to jazz singing.

Eddie Jefferson is credited as an innovator of vocalese , a musical style in which lyrics are set to an instrumental composition or solo. Many of the singers who had worked with the big bands of the swing era were now solo artists, in the prime of their careers and many had achieved fame internationally. Vocal jazz has been mainly a mainstream, as opposed to avant-garde, phenomenon. However, some performers, such as Jeanne Lee and Patty Waters , have performed within an avant garde vein.

Throughout most of jazz history, most vocal music was performed by either a soloist or a very small group of singers, usually one to a part. In the mids, a few directors decided to try transcribing Big band charts for voices. This idea was first tried by Hal Malcom at Mt. Hood Community College in with a group called Genesis.

Hal Malcom directed the group for 23 years until passing it to his former student, Dave Barduhn, who directed this group until his retirement in the Spring of This group eventually took the name Mainstream , which it performs under today. Mainstream was a new type of ensemble, one that moved away from performing the big band arrangements and other jazz standards and began to learn and perform a wide variety of music, including jazz, rock, pop, funk, and fusion.

The idea was looked down upon at first but eventually was adopted by many and is now popular in high schools across the United States. A vocal jazz ensemble usually consists of the choir, normally made up of 8—16 singers, and a Rhythm section most often consisting of a pianist, a bassist, a guitarist, and a drummer. Singers either each hold a microphone or sing with area microphones. Vocal jazz ensembles also often sing a cappella.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Staton combined a sassy personality with an athletic but also expressive set of pipes. Though she was only 32 at the time, Jones was not, as some assumed, a novice, and had, in fact, been recording since she was a teenager, cutting her first record back in From Washington, DC, sultry-voiced Horn started out as a classical pianist, but by the time she turned 20 she was singing and leading her own jazz trio. It was in , though, when she was 26 and had released her debut LP, that Horn made her mark in the jazz world.

She was aided by her friendship with Miles Davis , who was an enthusiastic champion of her music. After dabbling with soul and fusion in the latter part of the decade, Bridgewater signed to Verve in the 90s and quickly established herself as one of the best female jazz singers in contemporary jazz. Blessed with a lithe, five-octave voice, this multi-Grammy-winner from Detroit who was raised in Denver, Colorado has been recording since the 70s, when she guested on albums by Ronnie Laws and her cousin George Duke.

Though her solo career began in , Reeves gained wider exposure after joining Blue Note in , where she stayed until This Chicago-born singer, songwriter, actress, and civil-rights activist real name Anna Marie Wooldridge first emerged in the mids as a solo performer with a unique style, which acknowledged the jazz tradition but also, as she got older, looked beyond it.

Though the world knows her as Helen Merrill, this sonorous-voiced New York-born singer was born Jelena Ana Milcetic into a family with Croatian ancestry. Her solo career began in the mids and she continued to record regularly up until , after which she retired. From Springfield, Illinois, this silky-voiced chanteuse was born Sharon Luster and briefly performed as Sharon Leslie before settling for the name June Christy, after joining the band of noted West Coast pianist Stan Kenton. A doyenne of the West Coast cool school of jazz, Christy possessed an agile set of pipes with a fluttery vibrato.

With a girlish timbre as wispy and delicate as gossamer, Margrete Blossom Dearie patented a unique vocal style in the late 50s that made her stand out from other female jazz singers. Her career took off in the early part of the decade, in France, when she performed with a group called The Blue Stars before embarking on a solo career later in the same decade. In the 70s, she started her own record label, Daffodil, and was also a noted pianist and songwriter. Arguably the most fertile and rewarding phase of her career came at Atlantic Records between and She recorded her final album three years before her death in With her smouldering delivery and glamorous movie-star looks, California-born London epitomised the archetypal 50s torch singer.

As well as releasing 29 albums, London appeared in a plethora of movies and TV shows. Her last recording was made in She was also renowned as a jazz teacher and talent spotter, allowing up-and-coming musicians to showcase their talents in her band including noted pianists John Hicks, Mulgrew Miller and Cyrus Chestnut.


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Still eager to make her way in the world as a musician, a few years later she transformed herself into nightclub chanteuse Nina Simone, and started performing an unclassifiable amalgam of jazz, blues, gospel, and folk music flavours, all infused with a righteous spirit. The only one of our 25 best female jazz singers of all time to be born in the 19th Century, Bessie Smith was buried in an unmarked grave after dying, aged 43, in GT Thomas Hospital in Clarksdale, Mississippi now the Riverside Hotel , following a car crash, but later became the subject of a Hollywood biopic starring Queen Latifah.

Though she was dubbed The Empress Of The Blues, this Chattanooga-born singer was a key figure in the evolution of early vocal jazz and went on to influence singers such as Dinah Washington and Janis Joplin. She enjoyed a string of hits for Capitol Records in the same decade before moving to Decca, where she recorded one of her most famous and enduring LPs, Black Coffee , in Nobody could deliver a lyric like the singer born Ruth Lee Jones, whose clear and precise diction, combined with a tart, clipped delivery, left an indelible mark on her listeners. Vaughan was an accomplished song stylist who was as comfortable scatting over a swinging groove as she was delivering a sensuous romantic ballad.

Though not as technically gifted as the younger Sarah Vaughan, Philadelphia-born Holiday real name Eleanora Fagan had a way of communicating with a song that was second to none. Her voice had a deeply soulful quality that made everything Lady Day sang seem poignantly autobiographical.

Training Requirements for Singing Jazz

Able to improvise with her voice like a bebop horn player, Fitzgerald was also a silky balladeer who was able to balance technique with sensitivity. Looking for more? Follow the Jazz Giants playlist, for more essential jazz. Why is Diana Krall even on this list? Covering up her inability to even hit basic notes by labelling her style as sultry is doing a disservice to the genre.


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Listen to Lee, MaCrae, Fitzgerald and then compare their musical chops to Krall and cringe when Krall consistently fails to complete her notes, often a quarter tone off-key. Amy Winehouse has to be close to edging her way onto this list! Solid list though, good to see Ella at no. Let me make sure I understand this. Just wondering why Cleo Laine is not included on the top 25 female jazz singers. Her vocal range is amazing.

How on earth you can leave the greatest female vocalist of the last 30 years Sade off of this list is beyond logic and Amy Winehouse is a must mention on this list as well.

Singing Jazz:: The Singers and Their Styles - Bruce Crowther, Mike Pinfold - Google книги

This flawed list made me Krall under the table! Cleo Laine, Carrie Smith…..

Nonsense of course she does. So does Nancy Wilson and Shirley Bassey. You know the one with the big ears? We are talking about Etta Jones here. June Christy should move into the higher spot occupied by Chris Connor. This list includes only singers whose music Universal has the rights to.


  1. Best Jazz Singers Of All Time: A Top 50 Countdown | uDiscover;
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  4. Do not get worked up over it. Yes, much of lower list is debatable and there are glaring omissions, Annie Ross for sure.

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    Funny list :. No doubt. She could share the stage with anyone and force them to be on their A-game. The greatest living jazz singer as a human and as a singer is Carol Sloane. No mention here which is shocking.