When people start chatting about jazz, they tend to start off with talking about musicians such as drummers, trumpeters, and well-known saxophone players. But it is hard to ignore the impact that the female jazz artist had on jazz music as a whole. You cannot have a single conversation about jazz vocalists without talking about the females the dominated the genre over the years. Who would you consider to be the most influential female jazz artists of all time? Take a look at your record collection and find compile a list yourself. Or you could just read this one!
You don’t hear Blossom Dearie’s name as often as you should because her vocals were not over-the-top as some of the other people on the list. But she had a wispy, warm, and girlish tone to her voice that was truly understated. She was also a very skilled-pianist that enabled her to create a unique sound combined with her girlish vocal abilities. She may be one of the most overlooked female jazz vocalists of all time. She dominated the 1950’s with a style that was unlike any other.
Peggy Lee is widely known for her version of “Fever” which she recorded back in 1958, she was a part of Benny Goodman’s big band and had already released several solo recordings as a solo artist as well. Her voice boomed throughout the 1940s and 1950s and includes a top-notch album entitled Black Coffee. She performs a cover of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” by Cole Porter that is truly mind-blowing.
Nina Simone had a rich background in singing gospel tunes and loved classical music, especially Bach. So her influences go deeper than people originally thought. When sang and played piano she was able to use some of those deep influences to convey true passion and emotion for what she was doing. Many people talk about her singing abilities but often forget just how competent of a pianist she was. If you listen to her album Little Girl Blue truly shows off both of her truly amazing abilities.
There are many other influential female jazz artists such as Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, and Ella Fitzgerald to name a few. But there are even up-and-coming female jazz singers that are letting their influences shine through and passing down their influence down to future jazz singers to come.
Sylvia Brooks is a female jazz artist with many of these influences and then some. Visit her website to learn more about her style and sound.
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