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The Top 25 Jazz Singers Who Define the Genre

Introduction to Jazz Singers

Jazz music is undeniably one of the most captivating genres, boasting a diverse array of instrumental and vocal sounds that captivate listeners worldwide. Jazz music has a rich history that dates back to the early 20th century in New Orleans.

The jazz scene continues to grow, with many talented singers making their way into the industry. In this article, we will delve into the world of jazz singers, exploring the captivating genre and its diverse performers.

Jazz as a Captivating Genre

Jazz music is an artistic genre that combines elements from African music and European classical music. It is a genre that is full of life, emotion, and intrigue, often taking listeners on a journey through the various moods and feelings portrayed in the music.

Jazz music is intricate and imaginative, and it takes a skilled musician to produce its complexities effectively. The genius of jazz music lies in its ability to be both structured and spontaneous, all in the same song.

Jazz vocalists are famous for their improvisational skills, often inventing melodies and chords on the spot. The result is unique musical performances that are full of surprises.

Diversity of Jazz Singers

Jazz singing is renowned for being as diverse as it is unique. Jazz singers come from all over the world, with distinctive and individual styles that set them apart from each other.

Jazz singers use their voices as instruments, matching the melody and rhythm of the band around them. They use their voices to express emotion and feeling, creating an intimate connection with their audiences.

Jazz singers showcase the unique experiences that shape their musical style, often reflecting the social and cultural backgrounds from which they come. Now that we have a better understanding of what jazz music is, we will delve deeper into the top 25 jazz singers of all time.

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday is often referred to as Lady Day, a name given to her by saxophonist Lester Young. Holiday’s life and music were filled with passion, pain, and tragedy.

She had a unique way of phrasing her lyrics, making her performances sound deeply personal and introspective. One of her most famous works is Strange Fruit, which she performed countless times, a ballad that confronts the issues of racial inequality and injustice.

Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald is known for her beautiful scatting and an exceptional range that allowed her to perform various genres of music. She won countless awards and collaborated with some of the most prominent figures in the jazz world.

Fitzgerald had a remarkable ability to express emotion through her vocals, and her voice had a pure and powerful quality that earned her the title of “The First Lady of Song.”

Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan had an impeccable voice that could effortlessly switch between high and low notes. She was a master of soulful ballads, and her velvet-like voice created a mesmerizing effect on her listeners.

Her performances were full of passion and raw emotion, often caused by her personal experiences. Vaughan was adored by many not only for her voice but also for her captivating presence on stage.

Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole was a crossover star, achieving commercial success in both jazz and pop music. His silky voice made him a household name, with millions of people around the world humming along to his tunes.

Cole was remarkable for the way he composed and arranged his music, often leading to award-winning collaborations with other jazz artists.

Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong was undoubtedly one of the most famous jazz musicians of all time. Armstrong was a brilliant trumpeter who enjoyed tremendous commercial success and was a mentor to a whole generation of jazz artists.

His voice was gruff, powerful, and soulful all at the same time, his music touching the hearts of his audiences worldwide. Armstrong’s most famous piece is What a Wonderful World, a heart-warming ballad that continues to charm people of all ages and backgrounds.

Chet Baker

Chet Baker was a prominent jazz trumpeter and singer who left an indelible mark on the jazz world. He had an intimate delivery that seemed to whisper directly to his listeners, a style that made his performances famous.

Baker’s music was a perfect balance of improvisation, lyrical quality, and impeccable technique, and therefore, he is undoubtedly part of the Jazz Hall of Fame.

Nina Simone

Nina Simone was not only a jazz musician but also a civil rights activist, her music, and powerful lyrics reflecting the injustice faced by Black people in America. Simone’s commanding presence on stage, combined with her talented piano playing and gifted voice, made her one of the most captivating jazz artists of all time.

She is most remembered for her performance of Feeling Good, a song that encapsulates her take on social inequality and liberation.

Peggy Lee

Peggy Lee was a jazz singer who specialized in bluesy ballads. Her whispering style was unique amongst jazz singers and made her performances distinguished.

Lee was a songwriter, author, and actress who refused to be slotted into any category of performers, and therefore, became an inspiration to many. Her performances featured elements from different genres, making her music sound daringly original.

Mel Torm

Mel Torm was also known as the Velvet Fog, and he is one of the most accomplished jazz singers to have ever graced the stage. Torm’s voice was smoky and seductive, and his phrasing was always emotionally charged.

He was also nominated for multiple Grammy Awards during his career, indicating his popularity with both critics and audiences. Anita O’Day

Anita O’Day was a jazz singer who started performing during the swing era.

She had an improvisational style that was both playful and vibrant. O’Day’s music sounded impressively effortless, and this made her music accessible to all audiences.

Her music was a perfect example of the swinging energy and optimism of the time.

Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett was one of the most popular traditional pop singers of all time, who successfully incorporated elements of jazz into his music. His signature song, I Left My Heart in San Francisco, helped him achieve mainstream appeal, while his remarkable voice and stage presence made him a hit with both jazz and pop fans alike.

Carmen McRae

Carmen McRae was a jazz singer who combined elements of bebop jazz with a unique style that sounded similar to

Ella Fitzgerald. Her phrasing was impeccable, and her ability to improvise raised her to the level of other jazz singers.

McRae’s music was innovative and won a whole new audience for jazz among pop and rock fans.

Dinah Washington

Dinah Washington was a jazz singer with a contralto voice capable of delivering the most poignant ballads. Her gospel-influenced phrasing and emotive delivery made her music stand out.

She was a master at interpreting popular songs, making them sound both original and personal.

Abbey Lincoln

Abbey Lincoln was a jazz singer and songwriter who used her music to comment on social issues. Her “jazz poetry” was a unique blend of music and spoken word, which served as an inspiration to many.

Lincoln used her music to address the critical issues of her time, including politics, race, and spirituality.

Billy Eckstine

Billy Eckstine was a big band leader and baritone vocalist, and his music celebrated the excesses of the swing era. He had a remarkable voice that sounded rich and velvety.

He was known for his bold range and phrasing, which made him one of the most influential jazz singers of his time.

Betty Carter

Betty Carter was a jazz singer whose conversational delivery style was unique amongst jazz singers. Her melodic improvisations were intricate, and her performances were always full of energy and playfulness.

Carter’s music was a precise mix of styles, making her an inspiration to many jazz singers.

Jon Hendricks

Jon Hendricks was a jazz vocalist and lyricist who helped to develop the technique of “vocalese.” Vocalese is the art of creating lyrics from famous jazz instrumentals. Hendricks used his lyric writing to explore new avenues of expression in jazz music.

His music was a masterful blend of jazz singing techniques and inspired lyricism.

Nancy Wilson

Nancy Wilson was a singer who mixed elements of jazz, R&B, and pop in her music. Her sultry voice made her an instant hit with audiences, and her ability to interpret pop songs in a jazz style earned her a place in the jazz hall of fame.

Wilson’s signature song, Guess Who I Saw Today, continues to inspire many jazz musicians.

Joe Williams

Joe Williams was a blues-influenced jazz singer who worked extensively with Count Basie. His voice was deep and soulful, and his phrasing was impressive.

Williams was a superb interpreter of popular songs, making them sound both innovative and exciting.

Dianne Reeves

Dianne Reeves is a Grammy-winning jazz singer who has an extraordinary ability to scat. Scatting is an improvisational technique used by jazz singers to create melody and rhythm through nonsense syllables.

Reeves had a flawless scatting technique that made her an inspiration to many other jazz vocalists.

Norah Jones

Norah Jones is a folk musician who has borrowed elements from jazz and blues in her music. Her voice is soothing and understated, and her music has a laid-back quality that is perfect for relaxing.

Jones is a modern jazz singer who has helped to bridge the gap between pop and jazz music.

Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra is a legendary crooner who has sold millions of records worldwide. His voice was silky and smooth, and his music continues to enchant audiences globally.

Sinatra was known for his timeless classics, which have become integral parts of jazz music history.

Blossom Dearie

Blossom Dearie was a consummate jazz singer with a charming vibrato that captivated her audiences. Dearie’s style was light-hearted, and she was famous for experimenting with the French chanson style, a genre of music set in a Cabaret environment.

Her music was innovative and helped to bridge the gap between jazz and pop music.

Miles Davis

Miles Davis was a legendary jazz trumpeter whose music changed the face of jazz music forever. Davis was known for his innovative trumpet playing and his ability to fuse jazz with other musical genres, culminating in fusion jazz.

His music was loved globally and still inspires many modern jazz musicians today.

Diana Krall

Diana Krall is a Canadian jazz singer with a silky contralto that sets her apart from other jazz singers. Krall’s music is both sensual and lush, and her voice adds depth and texture to her music.

Krall’s portfolio boasts musical excellence, and her ability to perform ballads in a modern interpretation solidifies her place in jazz history.


In this article, we have explored the captivating genre of jazz and its diverse performers. Jazz music has a long and rich history filled with stories of passion and inspiration.

The top 25 jazz singers of all time have left an indelible mark on the music industry, touching the hearts of audiences around the world with their music. We hope that this article has given you the knowledge and inspiration to explore the world of jazz singing further.Jazz music has always been known to evoke powerful emotions in its listeners, making it a genre that is both soothing and comforting.

The diverse range of jazz musicians and singers have created a rich musical legacy filled with passion and raw talent. As we come to the end of this article, we will delve deeper into what makes jazz music so special, exploring its comforting nature, the diversity of its musicians, and the best jazz singers of all time.

Jazz Music as Comforting

Jazz music is unique because of the way it can evoke powerful emotions in its listeners. Many people find jazz music comforting because it allows them to relax and unwind after a long day.

Jazz music has the power to transport listeners to a different place, away from the stresses of daily life. It provides a sense of calmness and comfort, making it an ideal genre to listen to during challenging times.

Jazz music has an ability to express profound emotions, like love, sadness, or joy. The fluidity and richness of the sound provide a sense of peace and tranquility.

Jazz music can be soothing, making it perfect for those who need some downtime. Jazz music has a lot in common with meditation, as both aim to help individuals focus on the present.

The improvisational aspect of jazz can be calming, especially when listeners aren’t distracted by lyrics and can focus on the music itself.

Diversity of Jazz Musicians

Jazz musicians have come from every corner of the world, contributing to the richness and diversity of the genre. Most often, jazz bands are composed of pianists, saxophonists, trumpeters, and drummers.

However, jazz has also embraced various other instruments and musical genres. The diversity of jazz instruments and singers have made this genre stand out from other genres.

Jazz music has been acknowledged in both instrumental and vocal versions, and it continues to grow and expand. Saxophonists, for example, have always been at the forefront of jazz.

They provide a soft, soulful, and sensual sound that is perfect for evoking complex emotions. Pianists, too, have been an essential part of jazz music, providing the backbone and structure of the pieces.

Trumpeters are needed to provide brass and boldness to the music while drummers give the rhythm, adding dynamics to the song. Each instrument has its unique style, and jazz musicians use the combination of these instruments and their individual playing techniques to create something new.

Best Jazz Singers of All Time

The world of jazz singers is filled with some of the most accomplished musicians in the history of music. Jazz has created some legendary musicians, creating a roster of top talent that all music fans should know.

Below are the top 25 best jazz singers of all time:


Billie Holiday


Ella Fitzgerald


Sarah Vaughan


Nat King Cole


Louis Armstrong


Chet Baker


Nina Simone


Peggy Lee


Mel Torme


Anita O’Day


Tony Bennett


Carmen McRae


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