Sara Vaughn’s the one I have trouble with. For a long time I couldn’t put my finger on it, because she has a beautiful vocal tone.
It goes back to a Charlie Parker quote about improvisation: “The audience has to know what’s coming about 50% of the time. More than that, they get bored, less than that they get confused.” When Vaughn puts her own inflection on a melody, in terms of runs, grace notes, etc. she never, ever surpises me, and I get bored.
Holliday is good, as is Bessie Smith, but I don’t get the deep love for either of them.
Ella. Now THERE’s a singer. I recall a number of years back, there was a television special saluting Sammy Davis, Jr. Every prominent black entertainer was on it. Whitney Houston sang, doing her thing. Then old-as-dirt Ella slowly hobbled out (she was still several years away from losing her legs to diabetes) supported by Michael Jackson and someone else, and proceeded to tear that place DOWN. Put Whitney in her place, I can tell you that.
And to get back to the OP, Dinah Washington is at least as good, if not better, depending on your taste, than everyone mentioned in the thread so far. If her stature seems not as high, it’s pure hi-fi snobbery. Most of the recordings I’ve heard of her are of very primitive quality.