Some Great Singers Of Jazz

It’s Jazz Part 8


Louis Armstrong (1898-1971). Not only the first great trumpeter, he is also considered the first great jazz singer. As legend has it, Armstrong invented scat singing at the 1930s recording session when he dropped the lyric sheet for “Heebie Jebbies” and began to improvise nonsense syllables rather than stop the musical flow. He was also a master of witty interpretations of lyrics.

Bessie Smith (1898-1937). “The Empress of the Blues,” the greatest of the classical-style blues singers, a legendary performer of magnetic power. She created the jazz/blues manner for those who followed, like Billie Holiday. Smith’s strong record sales in the mid 1920s helped keep the Columbia Record Co. from going bankrupt. She died when she bled to death after being refused admittance to a whites-only hospital in Mississippi after a car accident.

Ella Fitzgerald (1918-1996). She joined Chick Webb’s orchestra in 1933 and had an immediate hit with “A-Tisket-a-Tasket.” Her long popularity has earned her the title “The First Lady of Song.” Her collaborations with Louis Armstrong (“Louis and Ella,” “Porgy and Bess”) are classic examples of kindred jazz spirits making the popular song greater than itself. She’s famous for her scat singing.

Billie Holiday (1915-1959). “Lady Day,” as she was known invented modern jazz singing. She derived her style from the languid phrasing of Lester Young’s tenor saxophone. She is the great songstress of understatement. Her tragic life was depicted by Diana Ross in the film “Lady Sings the Blues”.

Frank Sinatra (1915-1998). The famous pop singer began by singing with Tommy Dorsey and soon made his mark. He is a jazz-influenced stylist, applying phrasings and other methods from jazz to a pop-music context. His albums with arranger Nelson Riddle (“A Swinging Affair,” “Only the Lonely”) are prime examples of jazz-style pop singing.

Sarah Vaughn (1924-1993. Nicknamed “Sassy.” The best singer to emerge from the bop era, along with Betty Carter, this gifted contralto has evolved into what many consider the greatest jazz singer alive, with a remarkable range and elastic voice that speaks volumes with the turn of a phrase.