When it comes to jazz, incredible female singers are not hard to find. Keep reading as vocal instructor Molly R. lists some of the top popular jazz songs that are sure to get your foot tapping and your soul singing.
As a voice teacher, one of the genres I am consistently suggesting students try is jazz singing. Why? One reason is that learning a jazz standard really helps you grow stronger with your vocal phrasing. It’s also great for singers because it allows for more freedom in your musicianship: you can play more with tempo, try some scat, and so on.
Please don’t think that jazz is best suited for low, smoky voices, though! Opera diva Renee Fleming, a soprano singer, is a huge fan of jazz. In fact, she made money performing jazz at night while studying classical voice during the day as a young singer.
So ladies, read on for my suggestions on the most popular jazz songs to sing. And remember, all of these songs have been sung in every imaginable key; this is by far one of the most customizable of musical genres!
Popular Jazz Songs for Females
1) “’Round Midnight”
This sultry and mysterious tune was written by the great Thelonious Monk. Contraltos will really shine with this piece! Here, we see the legendary Ella Fitzgerald with her interpretation.
2) “The Man I Love”
There have been many fantastic renditions of this simple but heartfelt song written by the Gershwins, but this version by Lena Horne is particularly inspiring!
3) “Why Don’t You Do Right?”
Perhaps the most memorable performance of this jazz song was done by a cartoon (Jessica Rabbit in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”), but the legendary Peggy Lee gives it a different kind of sass in this video!
4) “Crazy He Calls Me”
This charming 1949 classic is great pick for a singer who really wants to show off her strong middle range. Here, the fabulous Billie Holiday owns the song in her own way.
5) “The Man That Got Away”
Do you want a jazz ballad with some serious pain in it? Well, this song will do the trick! We all know this as one of Judy Garland’s big hits, but part of the fun of being a singer is seeing what YOU can do, even when you’re singing a cover song.
Those Gershwins sure could write a memorable jazz tune! Although originally an aria in an opera (“Porgy and Bess”), most of us know this as a laid-back jazz song sung in a lower key. Here, modern day jazz chanteuse Norah Jones sings her rendition.
7) “Autumn Leaves”
Talk about haunting and gorgeous! This song may be short, but it’s so fun to sing. Here is proof that all voices can sing jazz: the Wagnerian soprano Helen Traubel sounds just as fabulous singing this as she does opera.
8) “Come Rain or Come Shine”
This mid-tempo standard has attitude AND heart in it. Here is yet another opera diva and jazz singer, Eileen Farrell, really selling it.
9) “Send in the Clowns”
Yes, technically it’s another musical theatre piece, but many theatre songs have turned into standards that are fit for a jazz club! This is definitely one of them. Take a listen to see what Sarah Vaughn does with the vocal line and tempo here to make it more jazzy.
10) “Someone to Watch Over Me”
Simple, sweet, and we all know it and love it! This is a marvelous song for beginners of all ages. Here, listen to the late, great Amy Winehouse giving it plenty of heart.
11) “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”
Marilyn’s performance may be truly iconic, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have fun with this song — and it’s all about the fun factor. Here is the great Julie London, NOT Marilyn, singing it.
12) “Black Coffee”
It’s jazz, but with really blues-y lyrics! This is a rainy day jazz classic that’s good for showing off your vocal range. Here, Sarah Vaughn gives it the perfect amount of emotion.
13) “I’ve Got a Crush on You”
Flirtatious yet not overtly, this is a wonderful jazz song for females that’s hardly overdone! In the video above, the versatile vocalist Linda Ronstadt sings it soulfully and beautifully.
14) “Take the A Train”
This one is best left for jazz singers with a bit more experience, as you REALLY must know how to scat to sell this swinging number! Here’s one the best scat singers of all time, Ella Fitzgerald, thrilling us with one of her best-known numbers.
15) “Cry Me a River”
Very dramatic — this song would be an excellent closer! Like with all jazz songs, it’s all a matter of what you choose to do with the tempo and the words. Here, modern day jazz diva Diana Krall gives a lovely rendition.
These are just 15 of the many popular jazz songs for girls to sing! Another fantastic resource to learn how to sing jazz standards is a vocal coach. An experienced voice teacher will get to know your voice and abilities well, and can work with you in finding songs to sing that really let you shine. Have fun exploring the jazz genre!
Photo by Bruno Ballaert