Six Famous Jazz Musicians That Aren't Aretha Franklin

Though many a badass babe has rocked out to Aretha Franklin's famous, "R-E-S-P-E-C-T," the Aretha isn't the only female jazz musician to have ever belted it out. Read on to learn about six other awe-inspiring female jazz musicians you need to listen to!

  1. Eartha Kitt: 

Not only was she the voice of Yzma in The Emperor’s New Groove, but Earth Kitt was also a highly talented jazz musician, beginning her career on Broadway in the 1940’s. Later, the earthy and sultry tones of her voice catapulted her into the limelight with hits such as "Santa Baby" and "C’est Si Bon." Beyond being a talented musician and the voice of everyone’s favorite villian, she was a writer and activist. One such writing is her autobiography titled I'm Still Here: Confessions of a Sex Kitten. Oh, did I mention that she also played Catwoman at one point in her career? If that’s not a renaissance women, then I don’t know what is.


2. Ella Fitzgerald:

  While most every woman on this list has a name as smooth as their voices, Ella might have one of the most recognizable. Propelled into fame by her dynamic range and ability to imitate most any instrument under the sun, Ella broke through the glass ceiling with devastating force, earning herself the nickname of “The First Lady of Jazz.” Working with big industry names such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Walt Disney, and many many more, Ella earned herself 13 Grammy awards, continuing to bring good fortune to the Fitzgerald name.

3. Billie Holiday:

    Another outstanding musician and overall human being. Billie comes from a very intriguing background, emphasizing that you really can do anything if you set your mind to it. Billie had no formal background in music, yet was a trailblazer in the jazz industry nonetheless. Unlike Ella, Billie had a very limited vocal range and was better known for her ability to improvise, a highly revered skill in the jazz world. However, Billie tragically had a short lived career and life, as her multitude of highly abusive relationships weighed heavily on her, sending her through the vicious cycle of alcoholism, which would eventually be her demise. Nonetheless, Billie bestowed the world with legendary albums such as Lady in Satin and Last Recording.

4. Alice Coltrane:

    Alice, a talented vocal musician, was also dynamic instrumental musician. One of few harpists to make an impact in the jazz world, she could also play the piano and organ. On top of already being musically inclined, she was also a well endowed composer, which requires an entirely different yet equally impressive skill set. Alice was the daughter of artistically inclined parents, her father specifically having had a formal background in jazz.Though Alice was bequeathed to the infamous saxophonist John Coltrane, she was a legend all her own.

5. Diana Krall:

    Arguably the most well known on this list and a family favorite, Diana Krall hit her famous stride in the early 2000’s. She is the only jazz musician to have had eight albums at the top of the Billboard Jazz Albums. Best known for a robust and contralto tone, Diana has had the honor of working with a multitude of jazz legends. even touring with Tony Bennett in 2000. Though the jazz scene in the US, Utah especially, has tragically began to fizzle out, Diana has continued to produce outstanding music. with her newest album coming out in May of 2017.


6. Robin McKelle:

    A personal favorite of mine, unlike the rest of the ladies on this list she is not known explicitly for her jazz music, though it is what she is best known for. Similar to Diana Krall, after the love for jazz dwindled down, she underwent a career change, originally just moving to an entirely different continent where her art was better appreciated. McKelle developed what I consider to be a dream life, touring and living in Paris. She recently underwent a directional change in terms of the music she put out. Up until 2016, Robin produced exclusively jazz music. However, in 2016 Robin released her newest album titled The Looking Glass, which is composed of entirely original songs and draws on the pop and blues more than jazz. With a voice as smooth as warm caramel, it was hard to resist putting her on this list. Afterall, I have her to thanks for many jam sessions with my family.

And there you have it, collegiettes! Six badass female jazz musicians to add to your Spotify account ASAP. Happy listening!

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