Christchurch is humming with the Jazz Festival this week and featuring a strong contingent of female vocalists. It is interesting to consider some of the great women jazz artists and their possible successors among today’s performers.
One of the greatest singing, songwriting and musical talents of the last century was the legendary Nina Simone. For me, Sinnerman is one of the most powerful, spontaneous and passionate songs ever written (yes, big call I know)! It features Nina at her emotive best beseeching the lord in anger and frustration, frantically attempting to understand her self and her role as a woman born into a disenfranchised people. She’s not called the High Priestess of Soul for nothing!Other household names of a past generation of talented, strong and sensual singers include Etta James, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington…to name a few. The contributions these women made to jazz, blues, soul and general musical and social and American history is so vast it is difficult to quantify.
These divas are a rare breed. Who is going to fill the void that Nina, Sarah, Billie and the others left? Currently holding the floor are a small group of people whose voices these days are slightly muffled by the constant, raucous output of the recording industry. While this bunch of women don’t, to my ears, pack quite the same punch as their predecessors they are a wonderful addition to the current musical offerings. There is also a growing number of white faces in this group and a slightly more loungey sound. Have a listen to the sultry deep tones of Cassandra Wilson. Thunderbird is an absolute must listen. Dianne Reeves is another prolific gem. She has been performing since the 70s and she featured in George Clooney’s movie Good Night and Good Luck. Dee Dee Bridgewater is another songstress who is holding the benchmark on soul to ransom and Stacey Kent and Claire Martin have been doing their own thing for a number of years now too. The incredibly polished Patricia Barber is another favourite of mine. I particularly enjoy her live concert from Paris. And we really can’t leave out the widely acclaimed Diana Krall.
Ones to watch out for: award-winning Hammond organ extraordinaire Barbara Dennerlein creates a fantastic, fast-paced fusion of hot licks from a variety of musical genres. I’ll be looking out for the likes of Jill Seifers, Nnenna Freelon, Luciana Souza, Joss Stone and Nina’s daughter – who also goes by the name of Simone – to see where they go over the next few years with their musical endeavours. Go divas!
Check out the talent and tell us your favourite.