Jazz has produced some of the most influential and successful female singers of all time. From Ella Fitzgerald to Diana Krall, these 25 female jazz singers have made a lasting impact on the genre. The Holy Trinity of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah “Sassy Vaughan” are widely considered to be the greatest jazz singers of all time. But there are many other female jazz singers who have made a lasting contribution to the art and history of jazz singing.
Proceeding in an ascending order of greatness, here is a list of the 25 best female jazz singers of all time.
Ella Fitzgerald. The incomparable First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia. Her journey to fame began on stage at the Apollo Theater in New York in 1934, when she won first prize in a talent competition for amateurs.
At the end of that decade, she was singing with drummer Chick Webb's band. In 1954, her manager Norman Granz created Verve Records to showcase her talent, and her career skyrocketed. Capable of improvising with her voice like a bebop horn, Fitzgerald was also a silky balladeer who could balance technique with sensitivity.
Billie Holiday. Also known as “Lady Day”, Billie Holiday received her famous nickname in 1937 from saxophonist Lester Young.
In 1938, she became the first African-American woman to work with a white orchestra. After her death in 1959, Holiday continued to receive awards, including Grammy Awards.
Sarah Vaughan. A skilled vocalist who performed with great bands and as a soloist during her lifetime, Sarah Vaughan began her musical career after winning a talent show at the Apollo Theater. Early in her career, she worked with Dizzy Gillespie, one of the most famous trumpet players.
To date, the best-selling jazz singer of the 21st century, this three-time Grammy winner from Nanaimo, British Columbia combines a sensual voice with piano skills. Krall made his debut in 1993 but it wasn't until he hooked up with his long-time producer Tommy LiPuma starting in 1995 that he began to blossom into the star we know today.
Cleo Laine. I wonder why Cleo Laine isn't included in the top 25 female jazz singers? This British singer is known for her powerful voice and ability to sing across multiple genres including jazz, pop and classical music.
Anita O'Day. A 1958 documentary called Jazz on a Summer's Day allowed Anita O'Day to rise in popularity.
She was known for her improvisational scat singing style and for her ability to swing with élan.
June Christy. Born in Springfield, Illinois, June Christy was popular with listeners for her soft voice. She began singing for a jazz band in Decatur when she was 13 years old and moved to Chicago after graduating from high school. After listening to June Christy perform, Anita O'Day recommended Christy as her replacement in the Kenton Band.
Dee Dee Bridgewater.
A three-time Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist born in Memphis, Tennessee, Dee Dee Bridgewater is known for her powerful voice and ability to sing across multiple genres.Julie London. An American jazz vocalist who recorded 32 full albums, Julie London is best known for her song “At Last” which has become an iconic love song.