Swinging and Jazzy

These extremely popular singers are called by some critics jazz singers and by others swinging pop singers, but not jazz. The issue is whether they improvise or not, which the purists say is mandatory to be considered a jazz singer. Another group of critics says the ability to swing is the most defining trait of jazz. These five singers swing but don’t improvise (as defined by jazz critics) and thus are labeled as jazz singers by some but not by others. “What difference does it make?” you may ask. None, really. Liking to listen to them is what counts. These five singers have each sold millions of records drawing from The Great American Songbook. They are frequently named as the best vocalists in American popular music.

Image of Nat King ColeNAT KING COLE (1919–1965) was a singer, jazz pianist, and sometime actor. He had over 100 hit records and was the first African-American man to have his own television show.

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Image of Frank SinatraFRANK SINATRA (1915–1998) the “Chairman of the Board,” is generally perceived as one of the greatest musical artists of the 20th century, having sold an estimated 150 million records.

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image of Doris Day

DORIS DAY (1922- 2019), was a beautiful blonde whose sunny screen presence and silken singing voice guaranteed box-office and record-chart hits in the '40s, '50s and '60s.

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Image of Rosemary ClooneyROSEMARY CLOONEY (1928-2002) was an iconic vocalist who sang pop music with an effortless, spirited swing, blurring the line between pop and jazz. Recorded a series of composer songbooks.

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Image of Tony BennettTONY BENNETT (/1928- ) is one of the great singers of his generation, with an ease of manner and warm vocal tone that helped him soar both in jazz and pop circles.

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Comments on the above singers by Will Friedwald, esteemed jazz and pop singing historian and author of JM Jazz’s favorite resource book: “The Biographical Guide to Great Jazz and Pop Singing.”

“Why Doris Day reigns as one of the great jazz singers”
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NAT KING COLE

DORIS DAY

ROSEMARY CLOONEY

TONY BENNETT

FRANK SINATRA

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NAT KING COLE
"Love is a Many Splendored Thing"
Sammy Fain-P.F. Webster
Oscar Winner 1955


FRANK SINATRA
"All the Way"
Jimmy Van Heusen-
Sammy Cahn
Oscar Winner 1958


ROSEMARY CLOONEY
"Hey There"
Richard Adler-Jerry Ross

DORIS DAY
“The Way We Were”
Marvin Hamlisch-The Bergmans
Oscar Winner 1973