Music

Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers? 

Adam Tyler
Originally by
Updated January 2, 2020 66.1k votes 12.9k voters 1M views 203 items

List Rules Only Jazz singers. No other genres

The best female jazz singers in music history have a sound that's like no other. Their melodies and tones captivate us and keep us coming back for more. Many of the women on this list have been gone for decades, but their incomparable jazz vocals will live on forever. Vote for your favorite famous female jazz vocalists and vote down any artists you don't like. Also, if you have a favorite who isn't listed here, add her! You can also rerank this list of top female jazz vocalists any way you like, including all of them or just a few.

How can any list of top female jazz vocalists not include the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan? Their unparalleled talents are indisputable. Once you get into the best female jazz singers' top 10, it's really hard to pick one over the other.

Arguments can be made, of course, that Sarah Vaughan's versatility makes her the best. Some might say that no one can or will ever match Ella Fitzgerald's incredible tone (and certainly her scat abilities). Others would argue that Billie Holiday is not only the greatest female jazz singer in history, but one of the best female vocalists ever.

Some of the best modern female jazz singers include the always wonderful Diana Krall, Melody Gardot, and certainly Esperanza Spalding and yes, even Norah Jones. Norah's sound is more of a jazzy fusion, but she makes the list. Defining a pure jazz singer isn't always easy: Like Norah, some of the women listed here are both jazz and blues. Either way, they're all fabulous, so vote!

list ordered by
1
Ella Fitzgerald is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Ballad, Swing music & Traditional pop music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Côte d'Azur Concerts on Verve, Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas, Ella Fitzgerald's Christmas, The Stockholm Concert, Porgy & Bess, + more

Labels: Decca Records, Verve Music Group, Reprise Records, Pablo Records, Capitol Records

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2
Billie Holiday is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Torch song, Ballad & Swing music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Lady in Satin, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday at Newport, The Best of Billie Holiday, Billie Holiday Sings, Lady Sings the Blues, + more

Labels: Aladdin Records, Decca Records, Commodore Records, Verve Music Group, Brunswick Records, + more

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3
Nina Simone is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Folk music, Rhythm and blues & Jazz; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: The Very Best of Nina Simone, Nina Simone Sings the Blues, At Carnegie Hall, Nina Simone and Piano, Nina Simone at Newport, + more

Labels: Colpix Records, Legacy Recordings, CTI Records, Philips Records, Bethlehem Records, + more

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4
Sarah Vaughan is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Cool jazz, Traditional pop music & Vocal jazz; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Giants of Jazz, Basie-Vaughan, How Long Has This Been Going On?, Misty, Brazilian Romance, + more

Labels: Roulette Records, Mercury, Pablo Records, Columbia

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5
Dinah Washington is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Traditional pop music, Vocal jazz & Rhythm and blues; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: For Those in Love, A Slick Chick (On the Mellow Side), Dinah '62, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes 1, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes 2, + more

Labels: Keynote Records, Roulette Records, EmArcy Records, Mercury

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6
Nancy Wilson is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Pop music, Cabaret & Jazz; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: In Person, The Swingin's Mutual!, A Nancy Wilson Christmas, Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderley, Today, + more

Labels: Blue Note Records, Capitol Records

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7
Diana Krall is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Traditional pop music, Jazz & Bossa nova; Nationality: Canada

Albums: Christmas Songs, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, When I Look in Your Eyes, Only Trust Your Heart, Live in Paris, + more

Labels: Justin Time Records, Verve Music Group, GRP, Impulse! Records

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8
Carmen McRae is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Ballad, Traditional pop music & Vocal jazz; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday at Newport, Boy Meets Girl, Carmen Sings Monk, Out of This World, Sings Lover Man and Other Billie Holiday Classics, + more

Labels: Buddah Records, Decca Records, Blue Note Records, Atlantic Records, Verve Music Group, + more

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9
Lena Horne is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Pop music, Traditional pop music & Vocal jazz; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Merry From Lena, Stormy Weather, Seasons of a Life, Classic Ellington, Lena and Gábor and Guitar: A Study in Elegance, + more

Labels: Blue Note Records, Qwest Records, MGM Records, Warner Bros. Records, RCA, + more

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10
Etta James is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
jstyles1948 added Genre: Rock music, Rhythm and blues & Rock and roll; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: At Last!, Tell Mama, I'd Rather Go Blind, The Right Time, 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best of Etta James, + more

Labels: Atlantic Records, Island Records, Chess Records, Modern Records, Argo Records, + more

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11
Peggy Lee is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Traditional pop music and Jazz; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: White Christmas, Christmas Carousel, Giants of Jazz, The Man I Love, Lets Love, + more

Labels: Decca Records, Capitol Records

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12
Amy Winehouse is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
TommyWimmer added Genre: Doo-wop, Pop music & Neo soul; Nationality: England

Albums: Back to Black, Frank, Lioness: Hidden Treasures, Rehab, Remixes Promo 2, + more

Labels: Island Records, Universal Republic Records, Universal Music Group, Republic Records

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13
Norah Jones is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Vocal jazz, Jazz blues & Jazz fusion; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Come Away With Me, Feels Like Home, The Fall, New York City, Not Too Late, + more

Labels: Blue Note Records

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14
Anita O'Day is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
motosaki added Genre: Vocal jazz and Bebop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: This is Anita, Anita O'Day Sings the Winners, Anita O'Day, Pick Yourself Up with Anita O'Day, Anita O'Day Swings Cole Porter With Billy May, + more

Labels: Verve Music Group

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15
Bessie Smith is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
jstyles1948 added Genre: Jazz and Blues; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Squeeze Me, The World's Greatest Blues Singer, 1923-1933 Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith: The Greatest Blues Singer in the World, The Empress, + more

Labels: Columbia

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16
Betty Carter is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Vocal jazz, Post-bop & Jazz; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Ray Charles and Betty Carter, Inside Betty Carter, I Can't Help It, "Round Midnight", Feed the Fire, + more

Labels: ABC Records, United Artists Records, Roulette Records, Verve Music Group, Bet-Car Records, + more

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17
Shirley Horn is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Jazz and Blues; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: You Won't Forget Me, I Remember Miles, I Love You, Paris, Light Out of Darkness, + more

Labels: ABC Records, SteepleChase Records, Verve Music Group, Mercury

18
Natalie Cole is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Adult contemporary music, Pop music & Quiet storm; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Christmas With You, Unforgettable: With Love, This Will Be Natalie Cole's Everlasting Love, Dangerous, Ask a Woman Who Knows, + more

Labels: Manhattan Records, Verve Music Group, EMI America Records, EMI, Rhino Entertainment, + more

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19
Dianne Reeves is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?

Albums: The Calling: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan, Good Night, and Good Luck., A Little Moonlight, The Best of Dianne Reeves, + more

20
Melody Gardot is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Acoustic music, Jazz & Blues; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: My One and Only Thrill, Worrisome Heart, The Absence, Some Lessons, Live from SoHo, + more

Labels: Verve Music Group, Universal Records

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21
Rosemary Clooney is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
aschultze added Genre: Traditional pop music and Vocal jazz; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Christmas With Rosemary Clooney, A Very Special Christmas With Rosemary Clooney, Irving Berlin's "White Christmas", Brazil, Clap Hands! Here Comes Rosie! / Fancy Meeting You Here, + more

Labels: United Artists Records, Dot Records, Reprise Records, MGM Records, Concord Records, + more

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22
Abbey Lincoln is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Jazz; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Straight Ahead, Wholly Earth, Devil's Got Your Tongue, Who Used to Dance, Through the Years: 1956-2007, + more

Labels: Verve Music Group, Riverside Records

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23
Cassandra Wilson is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Folk music, Jazz & Country; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Belly of the Sun, New Moon Daughter, Blue Light 'til Dawn, Jumpworld, Point of View, + more

Labels: Blue Note Records, EMI, Winter & Winter, JMT Records, PolyGram, + more

24
Julie London is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Torch song, Pop music & Cool jazz; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Love Letters / Feeling Good, The End of the World / The Wonderful World Of, Ultra-Lounge, Wild, Cool & Swingin', + more

Labels: Liberty Records, Bethlehem Records

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25
Madeleine Peyroux is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Make Your Voice Heard: Who Are the Best Female Jazz Singers?
Genre: Jazz and Blues; Nationality: France

Albums: Half the Perfect World, Dreamland, Careless Love, Got You on My Mind, Standing on the Rooftop, + more

Labels: Decca Records, Rounder Records, Atlantic Records

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