5 Women of Jazz You Need To Listen To

While feminists call for greater representation for women across lots of different spheres of work, why not shine a light on some influential females making waves in the music industry? Of course, each of these ladies deserves a spot in any 'best of' list regardless of gender, and of course, there are reams of other artists worthy of mention, but for now here's a bite-size list of five women you can check out today to bring some pleasure to your earholes.

My first focus is jazz - such a wide church that it took days to narrow the selection down to just five, but I finally managed to settle on a range of different artists from different traditions. There's something here for everyone, so load up Spotify, pop a bottle of Merlot, and sit back.

Here are 5 Queens of Jazz you need to listen to:

Allysha Joy

When Joy took to the stage at Gondwana Records 10th anniversary celebration in London last week, she gave a shout out to all the females in the room and called for there to be more women in jazz. Answering her own call-out, this female-focussed message rings through her debut album Acadie : Raw; the single ‘Know Your Power’ begins with a battle cry to women to know their power and use it, undiluted, and the song ‘Mardi’ is a beautiful number in memory of Allysha’s grandmother that speaks of warm familial love. Allysha Joy’s message to women is encapsulated in her use of her own earrings as the percussion section in her acoustic live shows: her femininity gives her the power to perform.

Esperanza Spalding

When your career as a musician starts at the age of 5, you can almost guarantee you are destined for greatness. After starting on the violin, Spalding quickly took the double bass and was performing in Portland’s jazz bars by the time she was in her late teens.  Now on her seventh studio album, she somehow achieves the superhuman feat of playing bass lines while singing which scatter off in different directions, while never losing the listener in dissonance. Merging jazz and rock more and more, Spalding’s albums are immersive and essential.

Cecile McLorin Salvant

According to eminent musical director Wynton Marsalis, “you get a singer like [Salvant] once in a generation or two”, which seems like a huge claim until you hear Salvant’s exquisite tones and are instantly reminded of Billie, Aretha and Nina. Salvant is completely in control of her voice, and can manipulate it to any effect: watching her live performance gives you the impression that she has thought about the execution of every note. Her compositions sound like they come straight from a crackly gramophone, so it sounds incongruous when she admits her lyrics are about such modern malaises as being friend-zoned, but it makes the music all the more transcendent and magical.

Emma-Jean Thackray

Brought up in the blazers and bombast of Yorkshire brass bands, Emma-Jean Thackray now resides in South London where recently laid down and produced the entirety of her recent many-layered album ‘Ley Kines’. Though a trumpeter by origin, Thackray plays basslines, percussion and sings with equal aplomb, and the production is nicely natural; it sounds more like a group of friends experimenting together than a one-woman masterpiece. Thackray’s genius lies in her adaptability: she is equal parts bandleader at jazz venues across London, remixer and boundary-breaking composer for the London Symphony Orchestra.

Nubya Garcia

A major player on the London jazz scene, multi-instrumental Nubya Garcia is partly to thank for the genres recent resurgence. Part of a hugely collaborative group of instrumentalists, Garcia plays with various groups including ‘Maisha’ and ‘Neriia’ both Afrobeat infused jazz collectives. She also releases solo work under her own name including this year’s ‘When We are’ and 2017’s ‘Nubya’s 5ive’. Though she apparently often gets asked whether she’s a singer, Garcia is a proud saxophonist and flautist, and plays both with such innate musicality that they might as well be an extension of her body.

Written by Elle Makower