Over the last 100 years, although all too often confined to the part of chanteuse, most female jazz instrumentalists have made very noteworthy contributions to the genre with their dedication to musicianship. Here, we list the 3 best female jazz artist professionals, from early pioneers such Mary Lou Williams, American pianist to contemporary talents such as Melissa Aldana, Chilean saxophonist.

Toshiko Akiyoshi
In 1929, born in Manchuria, Toshiko Akiyoshi, legendary Japanese bandleader, started to play the piano at age six. But, it was not until her teenage years that she initially heard jazz – an album by Teddy Wilson, American pianist – and fell in love with his sound. After arriving to the United States to study at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, her career took off and within the 70s she started to incorporate Japanese components into her sound – a special contribution to jazz which still is recognized today.

Terri L. Carrington
Broadly hailed in jazz groups as amongst the top contemporary jazz drummers these days, Terri Lyne Carrington had an illustrious career that spanned some three decades. Carrington started to learn the drums at age 7 and soon after her prodigious talent, was awarded a scholarship to Berklee College of Music in which she’d later be offered a job as professor.

Carla Bley
American bandleader, composer, and pianist Carla Bley’s immersion within jazz started in her teens as she heard the likes of Gerry Mulligan and Lionel Hampton inspired her to leave California for NY City. There, she got a job as a cigarette girl at the Birdland club to expose herself to a lot more jazz. Before too long, she was composing her own tunes. Along with Michael Mantler, her future husband, Bley operated the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, a group behind what’s considered her best work.
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