The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Ladies of Jazz

              On May 9th--just a couple of weeks ago on Mother's Day--the great Lena Horne died.  In her 92 years she had established herself as a dancer, singer, actress, and an active participant in the civil rights movement.  Lena was as talented as she was beautiful.  She had a very popular film career during the forties. Her political involvement led to some problems in the fifties, however she continued to record and was a popular nightclub performer.  Throughout her career she had a solid, respected career as an entertainer and won numerous awards for her artistic achievements.  Her performing career continued into her 80's.  Fortunately we have her films, videos, and recordings by which to remember her.

                Artists like Lena Horne paved the way for other female jazz artists and artists influenced by jazz.  The big band era produced several female singers, while many more emerged in the 50s.  Many of these artists led long stable careers, though some had their bouts with drugs and alcohol.  Some like Dinah Washington led lives of turmoil and died at an early age. 

              In the 60s newer music styles gained popularity.  Astrud Gilberto entered the jazz scene with her bossa nova songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim.  Her most famous hit, "The Girl From Ipanema", with Stan Getz on saxophone put the two of them on the charts worldwide.  The bossa nova jazz influence was heard later in Janis Ian's 1975 hit "At Seventeen", which is one of the most beautiful songs ever written about the hurt and loneliness of teenage years.  The album on which this song appears, BETWEEN THE LINES, was considered for my top thirty albums list and probably could easily replace several of my choices--it is an extraordinary album.  Though Ian is typically recognized as a folk artist, BETWEEN THE LINES has many jazz influences.

                Joni Mitchell, a Canadian artist who entered the music scene in the late 60s, started as a folk artist, but much of her work reverted to jazz and jazz influence.  Mitchell, like many of her fellow artists, freely moves between jazz and other musical styles with so little effort that many fans don't even realize they are hearing jazz. 

             Some of the current crop of female jazz singers includes Diana Krall, Cassandra Wilson, and Rickie Lee Jones.  Many remain in the vein of traditional styles, while others write their own material or interpret contemporary songs from other musical genres.  The more popular female jazz artists maintain a strong fan base and turn out records on a regular basis.  One thing is certain:  Jazz is still a popular musical style. 

         Do you have a favorite female singer?   Who was the best female jazz singer of all time?  How can you even decide who was the best?


  1. I can remember Lena Horne, used to hear her alot when I was younger.
    Another good post Lee.

    Enjoy your day.

  2. I LOVE Joni Mitchell. Thanks for sharing these insights Arlee!

    Today's guest blogger is THE Elana Johnson!

  3. Lead singers for Nightwish and Stream of Passion have great voices. Sorry, they're rock, not jazz.

  4. I can't really think of any female jazz singers. If I hear a jazz song I like, it's usually an instrumental.

  5. Great post on these women. I like them all.

  6. Lena Horne was a great singer; always enjoyed her music. Have a great weekend!

  7. Yvonne --Thanks Yvonne

    Matthew -- I really like Joni's jazzier works.

    Alex -- Some of those metal singers probably could transition to jazz fairly easily.

    L. Diane -- There are probably a lot of jazzy ladies that you would recognize-- you may have just not identified them with jazz.

    Carol-- Thanks. Yes, they are a bunch of great lady singers.

    Karen -- thanks for stopping by to leave a comment.

  8. So so many good artists on this post!! I love them all.

    Have an awesome weekend!

  9. As an old jazz buff, I absolutely LOVED this post. Lena Horn? Great ... sure will miss her. Other greats? Nancy Wilson and of course Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, just to mention a couple.

  10. Hello Arlee
    Have enjoyed these ladies over the years, also many of your likes from other posts. You must have a lot of time on your hands at the moment to do so much research lol Am enjoying the fruits of your labour tho:)
    BTW I realise you followed Cathys Capers for the A-Z month so if you are still interested I'd like to let you know I've moved to another address: Still Waters
    Pop in some time and say Hello - I'd love to see you
    Take care

  11. I adore Diana Krall - such a great sound!

    And some of the original jazz ladies: Etta, Ella, Billie, Lena - amazing voices!

  12. Lee - You captured all my favorites!!! :)

  13. Hannah -- thanks for checking it out and get well.

    Marvin -- Yeah, those are 3 more greats and the list still doesn't stop there.

    Cathy -- I'll check your new address. I went to the old one and it said it was private or something. Glad you are enjoying the music posts.

    Jemi -- Some great talent amongst all of these names.

    Paula -- I think we have a good bit in common.


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