The 50 Best Jazz Singers of All Time

Jazz music has been described by many as rhythmic, emotional, free and soft. Developed in the United States in the early 20th century, this musical style has blessed music lovers with the moving, witty and often improvised melodies of singers such as Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Dean Martin. From Ella Fitzgerald to Kurt Elling, here is a list of the 50 best jazz singers of all time. Ella Fitzgerald is one of the greats.

She earned the title of “The First Lady of Song” and won 13 Grammy Awards in her lifetime. Not only did she have incredible success as a solo artist, but she also worked alongside some of the best in the business, including Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra. Frank Sinatra was born in December 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey. He gained exposure through radio and began recording in the 1930s.

His career spanned more than 50 years and left us a lifetime of music and productions to enjoy forever. Billie Holiday, less formally known as Lady Day, was a famous American jazz and swing singer. She began her career in 1924 when her wife encouraged her to do it on her own. Although she died before the age of 70, she left us with more than 30 albums and much more.

Nina Simone's career involved more than 40 albums that exuded not only jazz, but R&B, blues, soul, classical and gospel styles. She recorded her first album when she was almost 40 years old and went on to become one of the most influential jazz singers of all time. Carmen McRae was inspired by artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday. She recorded with Louis Armstrong, made several film appearances and performed at jazz festivals.

Ray Charles moved to Jacksonville at 14 years old and played piano at the Ritz Theater. He formed his trio and recorded his first big hit “Confession Blues” before going on to have a successful solo career that spanned big band and jazz hits. Mel Tormé began working as an actor when he was only 15 years old and appeared in Frank Sinatra's first film. He also performed in musicals and sang in concert halls and nightclubs before recording his first demo in the 1990s.

Kurt Elling is one of the most popular jazz singers today. He earned a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music when he was 15 years old and later became Blue Note Records' first Grammy nominee with his demo. Blessed with a warm and husky vocal timbre, Texas-born Ruth Brown got her big break as a teenager after she moved to Seattle in 1944 and played in a band with future megastars Quincy Jones and Ray Charles. Multi-talented Steve Tyrell is best known for his distinctive voice which earned him the nickname The Velvet Fog.

He wrote a song for bandleader Harry James when he was just 13 years old before carving out a career as a singer and scoring several hits in the 40s, 50s and 60s. A prolific composer, playwright and civil rights activist, Chicago-born Oscar Brown Jr tried to be a lawyer, publicist and soldier before becoming a singer and Tunesmith in the 1950s. Like so many female singers from the golden age of jazz, Shirley Luster (better known as Christy) made her mark for the first time in the era of big band swing. In 1945 she successfully auditioned to replace Anita O'Day in the Stan Kenton orchestra. Jazz has produced a wave of wonderful voices over the years - both male and female - that have contributed greatly to its development as an art form that continues to evolve today thanks to new young stars such as Cecile McLorin Salvant and Jazzmeia Horn.