Abbey Lincoln -- she has been around but is still issuing new recordings. Try her if you like a voice burnished by a little age and experience. Start with "You Gotta Pay the Band" with Stan Getz on sax. Then try her latest, "Abbey Sings Abbey," which stretches the limits of jazz instrumentation but in really engaging ways. And yes, for some late night listening sessions when you've had enough of the office and everyone in it, Diana Krall can soothe the soul. A glass of Cabernet goes nicely with her "When I Look in Your Eyes."
Diana Krall has talent but to me she sounds like someone who mimics jazz singing. She sounds like she's "trying" to sing jazz rather than having a natural jazz voice. Maybe I just don't like the sound quality of her voice but my wife loves her. Her lazy sleepy style seems contrived too. In my opinion if you want to hear a modern female jazz singer who gets it done beautifully and naturally with great style, then listen to Nnenna Frelon. She is likely the most underrated female jazz artist of the past two decades. Nnenna is constantly overlooked. It's always Barber, Krall, and the like.
Check out the label Max Jazz.Also I like Stacey Ken and Dizzy Gillespie's daughter had some great releases no to long ago called "Some Cat's Know" that is sooooo sexy!!!if your a novice (after 6K jazz recordings in past 20 years I wish I had never seen that Movie about Chet Baler "Let's Get Lost".It's along story) I ran the jazz section of a CD/hgh end shop for 6 years.Email if you want specifics but 1)Billie2)Ella3)Sara Vaughn4)Dinah Washinton5)Betty Carter.I'd add Cris Connor and Anita O'Day to that list.Best today is not thje over exposed now ruined with lousy commercial production Diann Krall but Dianne Reeves.All jazz lovers should get a copy of The All Music Guide To Jazz and use the web site www.amg.com to look up individuals and use the music maps for instruments (including voice) and styles/idoms from Storyville in WWW I to today and break it down very well.
I just listened to Eden Atwood's "This Is Always -- The Ballad Sessions", featuring Tom Harrell on 45rpm vinyl from Groovenote. I highly recommend this album. Start with "Blame It On My Youth" which is served up as a vocal/bass/flugel trio. Eden has fantastic control and very good interpretive skills. Harrell is in his "breathy" flugel mode and the bassist (sorry I've forgotten his name) is stellar. The surfaces are dead silent and the engineering is beyond peer.
I give this five-stars. ;-)
Wow, what a great thread, female jazz singers are my obsession, to the point it even makes my wife jealous. Already well-recognized here is who I think is the greatest living female jazz artist, Casandra Wilson. My only complaint is it seems her recording engineers think undefined bass is the way to go (EVERY album is like that). Her album with the wonderful pianist Jacky Terrason "Rendezvous" is a jazz great. Lizz Wright, already mentioned, is another artist with huge potential.
But there's other major talent. A few years ago Jeanie Bryson did one of my favorite albums, "Jeanie Bryson sings songs of Peggy Lee." I don't think I've ever heard a more sensuous, sexy album with lyrics like "Some cats know how to stir up a feelin' . . . they keep foolin' around until your halfway to the ceiling . . some cats know how to make the honey flow." Whew!
Just yesterday I got in the mail a group I'd never even heard of (don't you love Amazon's used library?), "Dave's True Story," doing the album "Nature." The vocals are by the lovely Kelly Flint, who is also a non-jazz solo artist. A truly great album, every song.
Another new discovery, and surprise, is the album "Swing" by Suzy Bogguss, who normally does country stuff. Wow, I hope she gives up country forever. Every song is impeccable, and the album's sound engineering is first class.
Some people don't know Natalie Cole has done a couple of albums of jazz standards. Her "Stardust" album is still my test CD for new component/cable changes because the sound engineering is perfect (especially "What a Difference a Day Makes").
The ladies who sing for Manhattan Transfer do great swing jazz, and Basia is great with Matt Bianco doing Latin Jazz on "Matt's Mood."
Some other good artists include Sara Gazarek, Cheryl Bentyne, Shirley Horn, Dianne Schuur, some of Patti Ausin's stuff, Linda Ronstadt!!!, Kitty Margolis, Pink Martini (tho not strictly jazz)...
Someone I listen to often who seems a little overlooked as a jazz singer is Brenda Russell. Some of her songs are sort of on the border since a few make it to pop music, but she is an amazing musician. Consider her impressive album "Paris Rain," where she wrote every song but one. The song "Love and Paris Rain" is downright mystical jazz, if there is such a thing, an absolutely hypnotic masterpiece.
Dee Dee Bridgewater and Dianne Reeves have several very fine jazz recordings between them. You can check em out on Amazon. Two British birds with some good sounding jazz on Linn recordings are Claire Martin and Carol Kidd. If you're old school try Clap Hands! Here Comes Charlie with Ella Fitzgerald (Verve). Then, you'll know.
I'd like to second Stacey Kent. Her "Breakfast on the Morning Tram" is a great new album. "Collection" and "Collection II" would also be a great place to start. Evidently she's really big in the UK. I only just heard of her last week, but she's now on the heavy play list. Her voice is really pure and light. She really makes good use of dynamics and always has a great band behind her.
I'm sorry for repeating myself, but sgain Nnenna Freelon continues to be overlooked by jazz listeners. I cannot stress any more fervently what a gross oversight this is. She is simply outstanding. Of the female jazz singers out there, her voice places her among the top artists. She does not have that many recordings, true, but she is a real virtuoso and deserves to be recognized. It seems that little or nobody knows her work. Educate thyself!