It may seem like a challenge to find decent contemporary jazz vocalist in this generation, but they do in fact exist. The history of American jazz singers goes back for decades with everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Norah Jones. When you start flipping through the Great American Songbook, it can be difficult to create a fresh spin on tunes that were popular many moons ago and then faded away soon after. A true contemporary jazz artist requires a person to be truly creative and dig deep within their souls to find new meaning to contemporary classics. There are many artists who have achieved this level of greatness.
Nancy Kelly is one female jazz singer who has been making her way through contemporary classics since the early 1980s. Back in Philadelphia, she started out with an organ-based combo but later turned her sound into a more swinging sound with amazing guitar licks and a fantastic organ sound. She created a very energetic sound that came through via her vocals and ultimate dexterity. Her combo recorded a version of “Billie’s Bounce” by Charlie Parker that was an up tempo blast of true greatness and originality.
Some female jazz artists combine a blend of classics with their own musical songwriting gems. In so many ways in her album The Great City, Gardner sings of the unexpected beauty and complexities of New York City. This artist has truly captured the feel of New York City in a charming and romantic way that no one has ever been able to convey. The arrangements on the record are completely uncluttered and is definitely intimate yet tasteful. With her lyrics she is able to truly wow the listener with her gentle grace and subtlety. This album also contains some lesser-known old pop songs and some classic jazz standards.
If you are someone who enjoys the sounds of Billie Holiday and Fats Waller, then you will definitely enjoy the stylings of Catherine Russell. Her vocals and musical vibe is quite relaxed and heartbreaking in a way that combines pop music, swing, and of course, the blues. Her father is Luis Russell who worked with Louis Armstrong and often plays on her albums.
Whether you enjoy the old classics or something a bit more original, there are female American jazz artists that are still getting the job done. You just have to open your heart and your mind.
Sylvia Brooks is one of the great American jazz singers of our generation. Learn more about her and her music via her website.