Women in Jazz Part 2

When you think of women in jazz, who comes to mind? Whether they enjoyed immense popularity like Billie Holiday or were more of a small-but-true following like Etta Jones, there’s no doubt that there are so many women in jazz worth checking out. This is our second batch of female jazz vocalists you just have to know about. You can see the first list here. So without further ado, here are some of the best female jazz vocalists of all time, along with some song recommendations.

Related article: best jazz songs to sing female

Norah Jones

A more modern jazz singer is Norah Jones. Her 2002 song “Don’t Know Why” sent her career soaring and sparked a love of jazz in a new generation. The daughter of the sitarist Ravi Shankar comes from a musical family. Besides jazz singing, she has also made a name for herself in other genres and as a songwriter. Also worth a listen is her 2016 jazz music album Day Breaks. 

Norah Jones songs to check out: “Be Here to Love Me” and “Melancholia”

Although she didn’t get her big break until she was in her early 30s, Etta Jones was singing professionally as early as her teenage years. At 15, she joined pianist Buddy Johnson’s band. Throughout her illustrious 50-year career, she sang with a lot of big names in the industry and spent a good part of her career touring with her musical partner Earl “Fatha” Hines.

Etta Jones songs to check out: “Don’t Go to Strangers” and “Save Your Love for Me”

related blog: What are jazz musicians? The best ones of all time

Anita O’Day

A truly unique woman in every sense of the word, Anita O’Day stood out for her rhythmic singing style (said to be due in part to a mistake made during a tonsillectomy) and her manner of dress, veering away from the usual evening gown worn by female jazz vocalists and instead opting for her style. She was known as the “Jezebel of Jazz” for her unusual lifestyle. Fun fact: Her real name was Anita Belle Colton. She chose the stage name O’Day because it’s the word “dough” in pig Latin!

Anita O’Day songs to check out: “Tea for Two,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” and “Miss Brown to You”

Sarah Vaughan

Double-Grammy-Award-winner Sarah Vaughan is another name to know when it comes to women in jazz. She grew up in a musical family and started singing at the age of seven. Also an accomplished pianist, Sarah Vaughan got to record with some of the top names in the industry, like Dizzy Gillespie. She tried to imitate instruments in her singing. 

Sarah Vaughan songs to check out: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “Tenderly,” and “September in the Rain”

Hope you enjoyed reading about these exceptional women vocalists in jazz! Of course, you can also check out some of my work, available on my site and all major music platforms under Sharon Marie Cline.

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