Ella Fitzgerald

Also known as the “First Lady of Song”, “Queen of Jazz”, and “Lady Ella”, Fitzgerald was an American jazz and song vocalist. With a vocal range spanning three octaves (D♭3 to D♭6), she was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a “horn-like” improvisational ability, particularly when scat singing.

Billie Holiday

Nicknamed “Lady Day” by her friend and musical partner Lester Young, Holiday had a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. Critic John Bush wrote that Holiday “changed the art of American pop vocals forever.” She died with $.70 in the the bank.

Dizzy Gillespie

Gillespie was such a complex player that contemporaries ended up copying Miles Davis and Fats Navarro instead; it was not until Jon Faddis’s emergence in the 1970s that Dizzy’s style was successfully recreated. He was described as the “Sound of Surprise”.

Diamanda Galas

Galás has been described as “capable of the most unnerving vocal terror”, with her three and a half octave vocal range. Her works largely concentrate on the topics of AIDS, mental illness, despair, injustice, condemnation, and loss of dignity. She has worked with many avant-garde composers, including Iannis Xenakis, Vinko Globokar and John Zorn, and John Paul Jones, former bassist of Led Zeppelin.

Miles Davis

“So What” has only two chords: D-7 and Eb-7. Davis said that the inspiration for the album came from a lamellophone player he heard in a Ballet Africaine performance, and a childhood memory of walking down a dark country road in Arkansas, hearing gospel music.

Duke Ellington

In the opinion of Bob Blumenthal of The Boston Globe, “[i]n the century since his birth, there has been no greater composer, American or otherwise, than Edward Kennedy Ellington.” Duke Ellington called his music “American Music” rather than jazz.

Anita O’Day

O’Day was admired for her rhythm and dynamics, and for shattering the traditional image of the “girl singer”. Refusing to pander to any gender stereotype, O’Day presented herself as a “hip” jazz musician, in a band jacket and skirt as opposed to an evening gown. She changed her surname from Colton to O’Day, pig Latin for “dough,” slang for money.

Charlie Parker

Parker introduced revolutionary harmonic ideas, including rapidly passing chords, new variants of altered chords, and chord substitutions. His tone ranged from clean and penetrating to sweet and somber. He remains probably the most influential saxophone player of all time.

John Zorn

“People are so obsessed with the surface that they can’t see the connections, but they are there. When I sit down and make music, a lot of things come together. And sometimes it falls a little bit toward the classical side, sometimes it falls a little bit towards the jazz, sometimes it falls toward rock, sometimes it doesn’t fall anywhere, it’s just floating in limbo.”