Women's Day special: Top female jazz musicians we recommend listening to 

The best female jazz players and vocalists possess their own personalities truly holding their own in the industry

author_img Justin Nathaniel Published :  06th March 2021 08:41 PM   |   Published :   |  06th March 2021 08:41 PM
Women in jazz

Women in jazz

Since the birth of jazz in the 20th century, women have flourished in jazz circles. The best female jazz players and vocalists possess their own personalities truly holding their own in the industry. Each of them with their own special quality that contributed to the art and history of the genre. Jazz has produced so many talented jazz musicians, especially the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Sarah 'Sassy' Vaughan who are known as the Holy Trinity. Here’s a list of 10 women of jazz in no particular order.

Nina Simone
Known for tunes like I Loves You, Porgy, My Baby Just Cares for Me, I Put a Spell on You, and Feeling Good she was a decorated jazz vocalist from the 1950s and 1960s. She was also a civil rights activist, her songs like Mississippi Goddam, Young, Gifted and Black and Four Women were banned from radio play because of their candid discussion of racism.

Alice Coltrane
Coltrane was an acclaimed jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader, known by her adopted Sanskrit name Turiyasangitananda, she spent her later years as a swamini. She played alongside giants in the industry like her husband John Coltrane, Terry Gibbs, Joe Henderson, and many others. After the death of her husband, Coltrane was inflicted by a period of trial and suffered weight loss, insomnia, and hallucinations. She sought spiritual guidance from the guru Swami Sathinananda and Sathya Sai Baba that influenced her musical style.

Esperanza Spalding
American jazz bassist, singer, songwriter, and composer with accolades that include four Grammy Awards, a Boston Music Award, and a Soul Train Music Award. She is considered a jazz genius of the 21st century and is known for songs like I Know You Know, Smile Like That, Black Gold, and Radio Song. She aims to ignite and portray hues of human energies through composition, singing, bass playing, and live performance, to offer these sound energies as an aid for connecting with latent portals of unity, consciousness, and health.

Toshiko Akiyoshi
Akiyoshi is a Japanese-American jazz pianist, composer, arranger, and bandleader who has received fourteen Grammy Award Nominations. Her music has distinctive textures and is influenced by her Japanese heritage demonstrating high levels of compositional and orchestral ingenuity. Throughout a six-decade career, her music has been a unique and vital contribution to the art of big band jazz. Some of her popular works include Long Yellow Road, Carnegie Hall Concert, Columbia, Four Seasons of Morita Village, Hiroshima: Rising from the Abyss, True Life, and Let Freedom Swing

Norah Jones
American singer-songwriter and musician whose debut Come Away With Me (2002) a fusion jazz, pop, and country music earned six Grammy awards and sold more than 50 million records worldwide. She is considered one of the top jazz artists of the 2000’s decade. Some of her other songs include Don’t Know Why, What Am I To You, and Sunrise.

Amy Winehouse
She was an English singer-songwriter who rose to fame at only 16 years old. Her voice is often compared to seasoned vocalists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Macy Gray, and Sarah Vaughn. Back to Black won five Grammy awards for acclaimed songs like the title track Rehab and Love is a Losing Game cementing her place as one of the world's most beloved artists.

Tal Wilkenfeld
The Aussie singer-songwriter, bassist, and guitarist has made appearances playing with legends such as Jeff Beck, Prince, Eric Clapton, Herbie Hancock, The Allman Brothers, and Mick Jagger. Her experiences playing with the greats has helped her hone her craft as an artist in her own right. The latest album 'Love Remains' was Tal's re-visit to her initial days as a musician. The album she says, 'is the abiding presence of love...or the remnants should it fail'. The album alludes to a complex and tragic romance.

Hailey Niswanger
Hailey is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer. She has won awards like the Mary Lou Women in Jazz Award, played the flute on Terri Lyne Carrington's Grammy-winning album, and played with the likes of Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington, Harvey Mason, Mike Clark, Michael Wolff, Ralph Peterson Jr., and other jazz greats. She formed MAE.SUN in 2016 a mindful and eclectic band pushing the boundaries of genres. Their latest album VOL. 2 Into the Flow she says is about having your own flow that you must give in to.

Magda Giannikou
Magda Giannikou is a Greek-born composer, film scorer, singer, pianist, and accordionist.  Giannikou is best known for her ensemble Banda Magda, founded in 2011. They sing in 6 different languages and will transport you to the beautiful imagery of love and devotion. Their songs capture mid-century pop, cinematic arranging, and influences from the global background of the members. They have been featured in Carnegie Hall's Musical Explorers Series and entered the top 10 billboard's World Music Charts.

Laura Mvula
She is a British recording artist, songwriter, and composer celebrated for her fusion of jazz, R&B, and classical influences. Her albums Sing to the Moon and The Dreaming Room features incredibly orchestrated music with lyrics that communicate an impersonal strain of melancholy with a dazzling and powerful arrangement. She has been compared with the likes of Nina Simone and David Axelrod.