Swinging and Jazzy
These superstar artists are called jazz singers by some critics and swinging pop singers by other critics. 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. Appeal is what counts. These five singers have each sold millions of records drawing from The Great American Songbook.
NAT 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.
FRANK 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.
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. For more about Doris, click here.
ROSEMARY 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. Here’s NPR’s Jazz Profiles produced by JM JAZZ:
TONY 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. (Video on home page).
Comments 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.”
NAT KING COLE
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NAT KING COLE
"Love is a Many Splendored Thing"
Sammy Fain-P.F. Webster
Oscar Winner 1955
"All the Way"
Jimmy Van Heusen-
Oscar Winner 1958
Richard Adler-Jerry Ross
“The Way We Were”
Marvin Hamlisch-The Bergmans
Oscar Winner 1973