Best of 2018: Lea DeLaria's favourite jazz females

Lea DeLaria (Photo: Kharen Hill)

As part of our Best of 2018 collection we revisit the favourite jazz females of OITNB actor and jazz singer Lea DeLaria

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I love jazz – whether it’s R&B, fusion, contemporary or swing, I simply love jazz... almost as much as I love women. So, when you combine the two, what can I say? It takes me to lezzie paradise. Here are some of my favourites that illustrate a rather wide range of the genre and in no particular order. My list is somewhat singer-heavy, but, after all, I am a singer.

One cannot discuss jazz vocalists without including the likes of the late great Ella Fitzgerald and Betty Carter. They are the queens. Ella, gifted with both relative and perfect pitch, delights us all with what is seemingly effortless scat and turn of phrase. Betty teaches us that female vocalists need not be simply pretty with a pleasant voice – we can also be musicians who sing from our vulvas.

In fact, I have included Dianne Reeves, Janis Siegel, Dena DeRose and Abbey Lincoln just to illustrate how much these two mothers of jazz have influenced generation after generation of “chick singers". Carla Bley is a genius of contemporary jazz. Period. If this is the first you’ve heard of her, shame on you and you’re welcome.

Great Britain’s own Janette Mason is one of the most highly musical, creative musicians I’ve ever heard, known or had the pleasure to work with. She, like most women in our industry, is tragically overlooked, as are Sheryl Bailey and Helen Sung. Fortunately, you can catch both Sheryl and Janette at my performance at London Bridge Theatre on 18 November as part of this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival.


Lea DeLaria is playing live as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival, which runs from 16-25 November
Lea DeLaria (Photo: Kharen Hill)
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