Three Notable Female Vocal Jazz Discoveries

Since I run my design biz from my home office, I have the freedom to follow my musical whims throughout a workday. But, I tend to craft a pretty predictable soundtrack. Almost without fail, I start the day with the equivalent of aural wallpaper: low-key, instrumental, classical music (ie: KDFC, or an iTunes playlist). It helps me focus, and offers just the right flavor and vibe to support my work, as I find my daily mojo.

Around the time 11:30 – noon rolls around, I normally make a switch over to jazz. I’ve grown to love 1.FM, Adore Jazz, a primarily vocal jazz station offered on iTunes. By the time 4pm hits, I’m usually on my way to pop, rock, bluegrass, or dance. Unless it’s friday, in which case I make that transition much earlier. But I digress…

Adore Jazz has introduced me to a slew of artists I’d likely not otherwise know. For that I am very thankful. I wanted to share and highlight a few of the best discoveries. Perhaps you jazz/vocals aficionados already know these singers well, but they feel to me to be unjustly under the radar, and were certainly outside of my mainstream. I’m not sure why this is so, as I’ve quickly grown to consider them some of the finest, certainly of the contemporary crop.

Stacey Kent

In trying to describe Stacey Kent to a friend, I likened her to a modern-day Blossom Dearie. She has an impossibly sweet tone. Coming from another artist, it could threaten to be cloying, but her delivery is so honest, it never rings false. She feels very much a product of a different time (ie: 50s-60s)…not only calling to mind Blossom, but also Astrud Gilberto.

Stacey, a Jersey girl, has been nominated for a Grammy, so I suppose she’s hardly a best-kept secret, but I’ve never heard another vocal-phile reference her, or heard her recordings in another venue or on a different station.

Her “I Wish I Could Go Travelling Again” has become an anthem for my insatiable wanderlust, and a replacement for my recent lack of travel. Thankfully, San Francisco is the place to live when you’re unable to travel, so I can hardly complain! The good news is I have a Telluride getaway to look forward to in february, to meet up with some friends. GET ME ON THAT PLANE!

Her “Under a Blanket of Blue” has accompanied many of my Golden Gate Park strolls. Her gentle phrasing and smiling tone practically turns my personal reverie into a scene from a GOOD Nora Ephron movie (think: “When Harry Met Sally,” not those other ones).

Sophie Milman

Sophie is Russian-born, but calls Canada home. Her accent and phrasing only periodically reveal her heritage (certainly in her “Ochi Chernye,” a traditional russian gypsy song). But, her jazz stylings are all her own.

Her take on Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” may actually outdo the original, which is saying a lot. She knows just what to do, but more importantly, what NOT to do with a classic song cover. And, did I mention that she’s gorgeous? Well, see for yourself…

Her “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” is positively sexy and sultry, as if she just rolled out of bed, and threw on her spring dress, as she bids adieu to her latest lover. (She’d be a hard one to get dumped by!) I love the way she uses her quick vibrato occasionally for expressive purposes, or at the end of a phrase. (PLEASE ignore the video portion of this, and focus only on the audio.)

Clearly, she took a nod from Rosemary Clooney, who surprisingly also recorded this cover.

Sadly, on her website, she shares in her journal that in fall of 2009 she had to cancel her U.S. tour, due to vocal fatigue problems. It’s not clear if she’s overcome those, but my fingers are sure crossed that she has, as she’s far too great a talent to fall off course in her 20s, and not continue reaching a larger audience.


Trijntje (full name: Judith Katrijntje Oosterhuis) is likely not a household name here because she’s Dutch, has shifted genres, and truth be told, who can pronounce her name? She started as more of a contemporary pop diva, but has moved towards classic pop (ie: Burt Bacharach), in a jazz style.

I enjoy her in both genres. My favorite track from her Bacharach/Jazz genre is “Windows of the World,” from The Look Of Love (Burt Bacharach Songbook). Burt plays on two of the tracks on that album. This has to be one of, if not his best song. It portrays a deep sadness, and personally, conjures up 9/11 memories, as the restaurant that used to be atop 106th/107th floors of 1 World Trade Center was called “Windows on the World.I have fond memories there. Just one of the many epic losses that day.

It shows her textured, almost dusky tone to its best advantage. It’s also a very lush, orchestral arrangement. I’m not surprised she feels/sounds so at home in Bacharach territory, as she does remind me a bit of a Dionne Warwick or Bobbie Gentry. (PLEASE ignore the cheesy video portion of this…it is for your ears only!)

And, my favorite from her earlier pop genre is “It’s You I Need.” Her phrasing is at least on the level of a Kelly Clarkson or Leona Lewis. But, her tone is much more complex and memorable.

I love the way she uses a hushed half voice (a pop equivalent of “mezza voce”) to paint a story.

Are you a fan of any of these singers? Or, have you made any recent and notable vocal jazz discoveries?

4 comments so far

  1. wagrobanite on

    Three of my favorite Jazz singers:
    Nikki Yanofsky (I knew about her before the Olympics :))
    Renee Olstead
    Peter Cincotti (although he’s move away from Jazz now)

  2. jumping clapping man on

    Thanks for sharing! Adore Jazz actually introduced me to both Nikki and Peter. I love Peter’s track “Come Live Your Life With Me.” It was great to see Nikki at the Olympics, although I prefer her earlier recordings to what I saw/heard of her there. But, heck, she’s still SO young, I give her many years to grow into the artist she will ultimately become!

  3. Jeff on

    I heart Sophie!

  4. jumping clapping man on

    Bravo Jeff! You have great taste, so no surprise there. Hopefully her voice is well recovered, and she’s out there making great music again. Can’t wait for her to come/return to the Bay Area!

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