Voice 20 living greats

20 of the greatest living jazz singers. 1 Joni Mitchell Joni Mitchell remains a presence in people’s lives, has done for decades and will continue through her own back catalogue and the tribute albums that many fine singers and instrumentalists …

Published: 16 Nov 2019. Updated: 14 months.

20 of the greatest living jazz singers.

1 Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell remains a presence in people’s lives, has done for decades and will continue through her own back catalogue and the tribute albums that many fine singers and instrumentalists have delivered over the years that find new meaning and inspiration among the life affirming and exploratory ecosystem of the songs.

2 Diana Krall

A singer who has outgrown genre although she was raised by jazz. I guess most people who go to her concerts these days are not all jazz fans or even much at all. That, purists please, does not matter one bit. Think about it before you knee jerk. Initially Krall emerged as a pianist and singer and was mentored by Ray Brown one of the greatest bassists in jazz history. These days she is a producer as well as a singer and new vocal stars like the Australian Sarah McKenzie owe her a lot and take the classic jazz tradition from Ella and Anita and Rosemary to Sarah to Billie and on to a new generation who are joyfully discovering the music for the first time.

3 Cassandra Wilson

While she may not have made much impact on jazz since the marvellous Loverly although her Billie Holiday homage was very fine indeed Cassandra Wilson if she never made another record still would stay high up on anyone's list. She unites jazz and the blues and again like Joni and Diana has broad appeal because she understands the songs she sings and does not just sing them however beautifully. Blue Light Til Dawn is her go-to album. Go to and stay for ages.

4 Cécile McLorin Salvant

She takes jazz way back to the first three or four decades of its life. While her career is only in its first tremendous phase so far she has made a huge impact on jazz, not just winning prizes, but winning the hearts of audiences via her consummate skill with words, marvellous range and that wit and sass.

5 Carmen Lundy

The best jazz club singer in the world today. Intimacy is paramount. Modern Ancestors is one of this year's best albums and lights up her career achievements once more.

6 Patricia Barber

A poet, a risk taker, temperamental. Mythologies is one of the greatest jazz concept albums, either vocal or instrumental, of the last 30 years and tracks from her latest Higher are magnificent.

7 Kurt Elling

What can you say, his voice is a wonder and he has a philosophical presence somehow. As wise as a Johnny Hartman, as free spirited in song as a Mark Murphy.

8 Gregory Porter

The story began as so much in life, indulge me in being over literal, with Water.

9 Cleo Laine

A Grammy Award remarkably in jazz, popular, and classical categories. The 1980s was her heyday when she won a Grammy for best female jazz vocal performance for the album Cleo at Carnegie: The 10th Anniversary Concert. She transcends all genre limitations in her work and until Jamie Cullum came along no other clearly defined British jazz singer has achieved so much acclaim internationally.

10 Andy Bey

Ultimate connoisseur's choice to speak Joni capable of ''touching souls.''

11 Van Morrison

A great jazz singer as well as everything else.

12 Tony Bennett

Walks on water for many. For new fans begin with his duets with Amy Winehouse and go back to the work with Bill Evans and Dave Brubeck.

13 Theo Bleckmann

Superb interpreter of Kate Bush… and so much more. Seek out his work with Michael Wollny.

14 Norma Winstone

No one does poignant or bittersweet better.

15 Dianne Reeves

Today's Ella Fitzgerald. Born to sing.

16 José James

Begin with The Dreamer.

17 Stacey Kent

Ultimate girl nextdoor singer.

18 Norah Jones

As much a country singer as a jazz singer. Her voice is everywhere, a joy, and instantly recognisable.

19 Youn Sun Nah

Marvellous whether singing a Randy Newman or Tom Waits song. A vocal acrobat and tender interpreter.

20 Ian Shaw

Gifted imaginer of Fran Landesman and Joni Mitchell. Superbly spirited.

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2019 Highlight: Amanda St John

Launching Muscle Shoals at the Green Note in London’s Camden Town, Amanda St John was with Paul Tierney on guitar – her co-writer of among other material, ‘Walk Away.’ Stevie Watts on keyboards completed the “acoustic” line-up on this occasion St …

Published: 16 Nov 2019. Updated: 4 months.

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Launching Muscle Shoals at the Green Note in London’s Camden Town, Amanda St John was with Paul Tierney on guitar – her co-writer of among other material, ‘Walk Away.’ Stevie Watts on keyboards completed the “acoustic” line-up on this occasion St John explaining that the rest of the band had not been able to make it over from Ireland so “Stevie was drafted in.”

Completely at ease on stage, a warm presence, her voice is nothing less than a soul experience. In addition to her new songs ‘Grow’ from her back catalogue was a feelgood stand-out and got the healthy sized turn-out singing along with her as she walked into the middle of the room.

St John also delivered stirring versions of ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ synonymous with Etta James but much earlier it was her accomplished take on Mary Gauthier’s ‘Mercy Now’ covered in recent years by Liane Carroll that indicated her power and passion and the songs tumbled along one after the other – the dice landing in what turned out a winning streak as the set wore on.

St John, from the north coast of Country Antrim, recorded the album at FAME in Alabama with Tierney and some of “the Swampers” among the personnel at the studio where Aretha Franklin made history. St John told us how you could smell the sound and how the place had hardly changed in years – “manky carpets” and all.

Blessed with a simply superb voice, she has brilliant stage presence and delivers her audience chats with grace and no little humour. She took off her shoes after a while joking that her stiletto could have fallen through a hole on the stage. The songs have a validity and authenticity to them borne out of a huge amount of turbulence in the singer’s life.

It is only once in a blue moon that a singer as credible in this soul seeking style as St John comes along. To conclude she owned the room: everyone should hear her. Grasp any opportunity to do just that. SG