The ten best female jazz vocalists of all time

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Abbey Lincoln Although she was deeply influenced by Billie Holiday, and she released two Holiday tribute albums, Abbey Lincoln had a stunning voice in her right and was also a fine composer. While Lincoln released some fine records early in career, like 1961's Straight Ahead, some of her Verve output throughout the '90s and 2000s were quite compelling, including 1994's A Turtle's Dream and her gorgeous final album, Abbey Sings Abbey, released in 2007, three years before her death the age of eighty.

Betty Carter Betty Carter was one of jazz's more daring and dexterous scat singers, which is evident on many of her albums, especially the 1980 live album, The Audience With Betty Carter, and she also had exquisite way of delivering a line. While she performed with Lionel Hampton and Dizzy Gillespie in the late '40s, her career got something of a jump start after releasing 1961's Ray Charles and Betty Carter, which featured the cut "Baby, It's Cold Outside," which is, hands down, one of the best holiday songs ever.

Dinah Washington Although Dinah Washington delved into blues, R&B and pop, she was also a first-rate jazz singer. After singing gospel early in her life, she began performing in Chicago clubs as a teenager in the early '40s, and later joined Lionel Hampton's band. Her 1954 Polygram release, Dinah Jams, which was arranged by Quincy Jones and features jazz heavies like Clifford Brown and Max Roach, was one of her early great jazz discs, and the title track from the more mainstream What a Diff'rence a Day Makes! earned Washington a Grammy in 1960.

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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon