When choosing the 10 best jazz singers, it's best to avoid the whole argument about what is and isn't jazz. The bottom line is that the best jazz singers are also some of the greatest singers ever. These ten best choices, however, have a whole lot of jazz and swing in their performance styles, which is why they are the cream at the top.
- Billie Holiday Billie Holiday is an acquired taste, much like coffee. She sounds a little lethargic at times. But she's a great stylist. Amy Winehouse wouldn't have a career without her. Perhaps the same can be said for Sade.
- Ella Fitzgerald This woman had such great rhythm. If "it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing", then Ella meant everything.
- Sarah Vaughan Sarah Vaughan was probably the most powerful jazz singer to ever come along. Yet there was also great grace and beauty along with that power.
- Nina Simone Nina Simone didn't cross over as well as many of the other black singers, simply because she never compromised her politics. She changed lives, as well as music.
- Anita O'Day If Billie Holiday was an acquired taste, Anita O'Day required absolute dedication. She was probably the closest to a pure jazz singer we have ever seen, mainly because of the way she could go on scat tangents.
- Tony Bennett If you only know this guy for where he left his heart (San Francisco), you really don't know the man. He's the last of a breed; a true singer's singer.
- Frank Sinatra Frank Sinatra was a pop star before there were rock stars. But his phrasing made every song his own. And if making a song you're own doesn't make you a jazz singer, nothing does.
- Louis Armstrong Louis stands out on this list because he was also an instrumental innovator with his trumpet. Ah, but what a warm and fun jazz singer he was, too!
- Nat King Cole This man had a whole lot of class. It was hard not to envy him whenever he sang his smooth songs.
- Mel Torme Mel's nickname was 'The Velvet Fog,' whatever that was. But the name fits in one respect because it's nearly impossible to describe what he did.
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