J A Z Z V o c a l s
Jazz Vocalists - Recommended Recordings
Ella Fitzgerald – Her instrument is in a class to itself—and the listings below are quite beautiful. “Take Love Easy” on Pablo (just her and the guitar of Joe Pass - funky, beautiful) “The Best of the Song Books” on Verve (a tasteful compilation). “Ella Swings Lightly” on Verve (with the Marty Paich Orchestra) “Whisper Not” on Verve (with the Marty Paich Orchestra) “The Best of the Song Books” on Verve (a tasteful compilation of the box set below) "The Complete Ella Fitzgerald Song Books" - 16 CD Box Set Disc 1 & 2 - Cole Porter (Arranger: Buddy Bregman) Disc 3 & 4 - Rodgers and Hart (Arranger: Buddy Bregman) Disc 5, 6 & 7 - Duke Ellington (Arrangers: Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn) Disc 8 & 9 - Irving Berlin (Arranger: Paul Weston) Disc 10, 11 & 12 - George Gershwin (Arranger: Nelson Riddle) Disc 13 & 14 - Harold Arlen (Arranger: Billy May) Disc 15 - Jerome Kern (Arranger: Nelson Riddle) Disc 16 - Johnny Mercer; Harold Arlen “Ella and Louis” on Verve (Her voice was at its finest here) The contrast between her songbird beauty and Louis Armstrong’s deep, raspy tonal hues makes for a noteworthy performance.
Johnny Hartman – A truly gifted singer. “The Voice that Is” “John Coltrane/Johnny Hartman” Lorez Alexandria – Unfortunately, much of Lorez’s earlier work, which connoisseurs consider to be her finest, has not been available on CD. However, I understand that the Japanese have recently released on CD the two following and the third is a definite. “Lorez Alexandria the Great” on Impulse “More of the Great” on Impulse “Deep Roots” on Argo (definitely on Japanese CD) “Early in the Morning” (If you ever see this on CD get it)
Patricia Barber – It’s true she’s an entirely unique talent. She’s a composer, song-writer, singer and pianist. “Modern Cool”
Dee Dee Bridgewater – Dee Dee is still ‘piping’ and very well, Thank You. “Dear Ella” on Verve (A beautiful tribute CD to Ella Fitzgerald) “In Montreux”
Betty Carter – Betty was a true jazz singer with an inimitable style like none other. She was quite a diva. “Meet Betty Carter and Ray Bryant” on Columbia “Feed the Fire” on Verve
Rachelle Ferrell – She has a downright remarkable voice and a range like Minnie Riperton’s. She is young and strong. “Somethin’ Else” (My CD is Japanese, which is an exceptionally well mastered, however, I believe there is also an American pressing which may be easier to find). “Rachelle Ferrell” on Capitol
Chris Connor – She is a white singer, a unique stylist with a smooth, sultry, late-night café quality, who recorded a lot in the 60’s. I don’t know if these are available on CD but if you can find them they are quite fine. “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not” on Atlantic “Chris Connor” on Atlantic “Free Spirits’ on Atlantic
Billie Holiday – Of course, everyone has some Billie in their collection. I think the following are especially fine: “Lady Sings the Blues” on Verve “Music for Torching” on Verve “Lady in Satin” on Columbia
Shirley Horn – One of the real jazz divas. She accompanies herself on piano. “Here’s to Life” (I love this CD and have gone to sleep with it many times) “Travelin’ light” on ABC Paramount (An early recording that is very fine). “Loving You” on Verve (A very fine date) “I Remember Miles” on Verve (Relatively recent with fine supporting musicians).
Etta Jones – Another with a distinctive voice. “Don’t Go To Strangers” (This is clearly one of her best).
Abbey Lincoln – I have never considered Abbey to have a great voice, but she’s quite a stylist and has become the grande dame jazz poetess. I provide two early works where she’s young and singing café type material, and a more recent work where she’s funky, dark and poetic. All are quite nice. “That’s Him” on Riverside (GREAT musicians with and behind her) “Abbey is Blue” on Riverside (Again, great musicianship supporting her). “A Turtle’s Dream” on Gitanes (Truly captures the character of Abbey du jour).
Gloria Lynne – Here’s another diva with a fine instrument, a rich womanly style with voicing that has beauty, depth, experience and class. “He Needs Me” on Everest “At the Las Vegas Thunderbird” on Everest “Lonely and Sentimental” on Everest
Carmen McRae – Another diva from the pantheon of jazz goddesses, with an elegant funkiness all her own. She did quite a bit of fine work. “I’m Coming Home Again” on Buddha (Fine supporting musicianship). “Carmen Sings Monk” on Novus BMG “Alfie” on Mainstream “Book of Ballads” on Kapp (This is a gorgeous date, and beautifully recorded)
Joni Mitchell – I heard her sing on a Herbie Hancock CD, “Gershwin’s World”—a very nice recording itself—I would never have guessed it was her, and she was great. Then she released the CD below with part of the London Symphony. It’s a beauty! “Both Sides Now” on Reprise
Betty Roche – She sang with the Duke Ellington Orchestra for years, then broke out and did several dates on her own. I list the one that I think is a killer. Everyone who hears it is taken with it. “Take the “A”Train
Nina Simone – She is the original jazz ‘womanist’. A Julliard and classically trained pianist whose inimitable blend of folk, jazz, and sheer rebel is nonpareil—a real nonconformist and a musician par excellence. In my opinion, one date towers above all else. The other is also quite nice “Little Girl Blue” on Bethlehem**** “Live at Carnegie Hall” (Another fine date)
Teri Thornton – She recorded a handful of fine LP’s in the 60’s then disappeared from the scene for many, many years. She returned many years later, recorded a nice CD, then died suddenly while planning a second release. I provide two of her early works. “Devil May Care” on Riverside “Somewhere in the Night” on Dauntless
Sarah Vaughan – Of course, she’s a DIVA with the stature of Maria Callas, and she was extremely prolific, so it’s important to select a few of her truly fine dates. I offer some of my topmost choices below: “Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown” on Emarcy “I Love Brazil” (A date of Brazilian compositions, very beautiful) “Crazy & Mixed Up” “Jazz ‘Round Midnight” (A compilation CD, very fine selections) “Ultimate Sarah Vaughan” (A compilation CD with selections by Dee Dee Bridgewater, who has made some fine choices here).
Nancy Wilson – I have loved Nancy Wilson for most of my life, because she is SO FINE and she tells a story like no one else. She has made more than 65 recordings, many of them quite fine. I am recommending just a few of my favorites. “Lush Life” on Capitol “With My Lover Beside Me” on Columbia (Believe it or not, music is by Barry Manilow and lyrics by Johnny Mercer). This is good on a wintry night with a fireplace, wine, and your main squeeze. “Welcome to My Love” on Capitol (This is for when you are caught-up in your own interior). It has a solemn beauty. “Love, Nancy” on Columbia. This one is more recent and holds lots of appeal for younger women, especially. It has more contemporary songs and production values. “RSVP” Released in 2005. Her singing is strong, the material is adult and it’s very well done and should be easy to find.
Brazilian Jazz Vocals - Recommended Recordings
Joyce Astronauta: Songs Of Elis - (a tribute to Elis Regina) (backed by Joe Lovano, Mulgrew Miller, Renee Rosnes, and Romero Lubambo) Milton Nasciamento Milton Nasciamento (on A&M) Club de Esquina Vol. 1, Vol. 2
Astrud Gilberto - vocalist on the internationally famous song "The Girl from Ipanema"** Getz/Gilberto (recorded in 1963 and released in 1964)
**Note: "The Girl from Ipanema"
Nat King Cole also recorded the song in 1964 and it was relased on his L-O-V-E album in 1965, which as it turned out was his final album.
Frank Sinatra recorded the song with Jobim in 1967 for their album Francis Albert Sinatra & Antônio Carlos Jobim.
Ella Fitzgerald recorded it for her two-disc set of Brazilian music Ella Abraça Jobim, released by Pablo Today in 1981.
Then in 2019 Gregory Porter did a digital duet with Nat King Cole on the album Ultimate Nat King Cole, which was simillar in concept to Natalie Cole's "Unforgettable" 1991 duet with her late father Nat King Cole.
Ethel Ennis changed it up in 1963 and sang it as "The Boy from Ipanema". This version was also relased in the 1950's by other female artists such as Peggy Lee (1964), Ella Fitzgerald (1965), The Supremes (1965), Shirley Bassey (1966) and Eartha Kitt (1974). Much later Crystal Waters recorded it in 1996 and Diana Krall recorded another version on her 2009 album Quiet Nights.
In addition it has been recorded by Lou Rawls, Cher, Amy Winehouse, and many, many more...
“The Girl from Ipanema” was added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2004.