VOICES Notes and news on Jazz Vocals releases
22 SEP 13 ANNE FARNSWORTH
Singer Sarah Vaughan shares a vaunted position with Ella Fitzgerald as one of the two most influential and important jazz singers of all time. Concord released an updated version of her 1979 Pablo two-album undertaking, a definitive compilation of Duke Ellington music. Sophisticated Lady: The Duke Ellington Songbook, is an astounding achievement, a 2-disc offering of 27 tracks including six previously unreleased tracks.
This is the best jazz has to offer, with a stunning pedigree of first-rate musicians led by legendary producer Norman Granz. Granz founded the Pablo label in 1973, having sold off his four previous labels, including Verve, a decade earlier. He signed Vaughan in 1978, shocked that she had been without a recording contract for the past three years. She went on to release exemplary albums including a Brazilian-themed recording and a wonderful collaboration with guitarist Joe Pass. All of Granz's Pablo releases feature the crème de la crème of 20th century jazz, curated by a man who for 50 plus years was a leader in presenting the uppermost level of American musical talent.
Granz was first introduced to Vaughan's remarkable voice when she performed at one of his Jazz At The Philharmonic concerts in 1946 at Carnegie Hall. Ellington Songbook, originally released in 1980, shows Vaughan, some 35 years later, still at the height of her powers.
What can be said about Vaughan's voice that hasn't already been reported during her 40 years of stardom? Her remarkable gifts combined a three-octave range with an impeccable ear, formal musical training and a bop sensibility that led her, like Ella, Anita O'Day and Betty Carter, to instrumental-style improvisation, her musical influences coming from horn players rather than other singers.
An accomplished pianist, she first appeared in the Apollo Theater's famed talent contest as an accompanist for a singing girlfriend. She later returned to compete as a singer herself, performing "Body And Soul." She won, of course.
Ellington Songbook features famed arranger/bandleader Benny Carter and a full orchestra including a rhythm section of pianist Jimmy Rowles, Andy Simpkins on bass and drummer Grady Tate.
Recorded between 1979-80, they feature not only the most beloved of Ellington's compositions but also the ones that are the most difficult to sing. Originally written as instrumentals, the melodies have huge ranges with large leaps that challenge even the most accomplished vocalists. A must-have addition to any jazz lover's collection, this release is a tour de force, a fitting tribute not only to Ellington, one of our most important American composers, but for the original sophisticated lady herself.
02 SEP 13 ANNE FARNSWORTH
Eliane Elias' latest recording was just released May 28 but it has already reached #1 in sales and airplay in the U.S. and France on Amazon and #2 on iTunes. I Thought About You (A Tribute To Chet Baker) is an affectionate homage to the soulful trumpet player who sang with a wistful, wounded-soul tenor that captivated jazz fans.
With the 25th anniversary of Baker's death, there have been several releases dedicated to his memory. But Elias has some bona fides to go along with her innate artistry -- her husband, bassist Marc Johnson, and drummer Victor Lewis, who, with Elias on piano, make up her rhythm section on this set, played with the man himself. Legendary musician Randy Brecker fills in for Baker on trumpet and flugelhorn on three of the tracks, leading soli intro sections and contributing sensitive Baker-ish solos on "There Will Never Be Another You" and "Just Friends," as well as opening "That Old Feeling" with the little-heard verse melody.
Rather than a mere reproduction of Baker's best-known songs, Elias brings her Brazilian sensibilities to bear on the arrangements. "I Thought About You," the first track, begins with a reharmonization of the opening changes. "Blue Room" opens with the first chorus done as a duet of Johnson's bass and Elias' voice.
Baker standards "There Will Never Be Another You" and "Let's Get Lost" sparkle as sambas, while "Embraceable You" grooves to a sultry bossa nova beat.
It's a full circle of style and influence, as Elias explains: "Chet and the cool jazz movement were influential to the bossa nova artists in the 1950s. João Gilberto, Toquinho, Vinicius de Moraes, and Antonio Carlos Jobim are just a few who have spoken to this influence. Chet sang and played with a purity of sound, and had a way of phrasing without much affectation, floating over the bar line, an approach which is immediately recognizable in the delivery of some of the great bossa nova artists, like João Gilberto."
05 AUG 13 ANNE FARNSWORTH
Jimmy Scott is one of the most interesting and unique jazz singers in the world. Born with Kallmann's Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that prevents the onset of puberty, his voice remained pure and child-like when he became an adult while possessing a grown man's strength and power. Little Jimmy Scott & The Paul Gayten Band's Regal Records: Live In New Orleans, a 1951 live recording that's been remastered in CD format, is a must-have for all Jimmy Scott fans.
Scott's disease kept his height under five feet and he picked up the "Little" nickname. At the age of 37 he grew eight more inches in height. Fortunately the growth spurt didn't affect his voice, though he dropped the "little" moniker.
Classical fans will be familiar with the historical castrati, the countertenor voice that was highly prized for its ethereal, otherworldly sound. Scott is just such countertenor. If you haven't heard him yet, you owe it to yourself to experience it.
But it's not just his vocal quality that sets him apart. Jimmy Scott is one of the most soulful and swinging jazz singers of the 20th century. His rhythmic nuances, back-phrasing and anticipation, along with his tone and vibrato put him in the class of jazz singers like Billie Holliday, Betty Carter and Sarah Vaughan, who were more horn-like in their approach.
Speaking of horns, Scott shares the stage on this recording with two tenor saxmen, Ray Abrams and Sam Butera. Nearly half of the tracks on this release feature the two proto-bop players, most notably in the aptly named "Dueling Tenors." But it's Scott's show, as when he sings "Everybody's Somebody's Fool," which was his first hit when he recorded it a year earlier with the Lionel Hampton Band.
The music on this album has a free wheeling vibe, with Scott opening several of the ballads with a long held note and the band falling in behind him. An enthusiastic audience and a loopy, rhyming emcee add to the general sense of fun and frivolity and will make you wish you were in attendance yourself. Listening to this record is the next best thing to being there.
15 JUL 13 ANNE FARNSWORTH
Blues singer Mildred Anderson had a smoky contralto voice and sang with a knowing awareness of the pitfalls of romance. In 1960, she recorded two albums for Bluesville, a Prestige label, which are considered the high points of her career. No More In Life is a solid set of jazzy blues, featuring an organ trio and legendary tenor saxophonist Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis.
Anderson grew up singing in the church and went on to perform with Hot Lips Page and boogie-woogie king Albert Ammons. She made her recording debut in 1953 with Bill Doggett, one of the first Hammond B-3 men. She worked in a lot of organ trio situations and, as in this release. Her smoky, alto voice is a great counterpoint to the B-3's timbre.
On this session another Hammond trailblazer, Shirley Scott, known as "Queen of the Organ," joins Anderson. Scott worked frequently with "Lockjaw" through the '50s and their familiarity is evident in the tight fills they play together behind Anderson's vocals. Both artists were early leaders in the hard bop genre and their funky, no-frills approach to their lines are hallmarks of that sub-style of jazz.
Anderson includes some of own her compositions on this set, like the opener, "Everybody's Got Somebody But Me," a 12-bar blues that grooves at a slow burn in 12/8 time. The bad luck themes of "Hard Times" and another Anderson original, "Mistreater," are lightened with bouncy arrangements of humorous blues classics like Count Basie's "I Ain't Mad At You" and "Roll 'Em Pete," which was a huge hit for Big Joe Turner and Pete Johnson.
BROWSE ARCHIVE OF JAZZ VOCALS VOICES