Gheorghe

First time with a vocal soloist

36 posts in this topic

I´m a piano player and though I´m not professional, I´m doing club dates with a trio and sometimes jam with other players, hornplayers, guitarists etc, but I almost don´t have experiences with vocalists.

Usually we play mostly  bop stuff, all the Bird,Diz,Bud,Monk stuff , up tempo, medium tempo, afro cuban (Manteca, Tin Tin Deo etc. ), ballads, all that stuff.

But now a fan who digs what we do wants us to play at his wedding, a garden party something like that. He  says our repertoire is  cool for him he likes the Bud/Monk stuff and we should play our program, but......., for about a third of the program, some tunes in each set he wants a female singer.

Can you guys tell me what kind of tunes female singers usually like to sing ?  I haven´t met the singer yet, she´s busy and I think I´ll meet her just when the gig will be (beginning of summer).

The guy told me "you know how it goes what people want to hear a singer do.... stuff like "Girl from Ipanema" "I can´t give you anything but love" etc etc.....

Well okay,  you can imagine I don´t need to "practice" or rehearse stuff like that, but I´d like to know about more tunes jazz singers usually do......, or for such an occasion.

So please, if someone gives me an idea what tunes should be played so I just can imagine a bit what type of set it should be to mix vocals with instrumentals ?

I know that singers sometimes want the stuff in different keys but that´s not the problem for me. If I hear a  tune I might know  it and should be able to play it in any key (I forget to mention I don´t really read music....... I take a glance at the chord progressions and that might be enough......)

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Hello Gheorghe,
a singer here. I think it would be wise to agree with her about the keys. Realbook keys are usually not that comfortable for a singer, especially a female one, since the RB wasn't meant for singers. I would put in some ballads, some latin stuff (Jobim maybe) and some swing, different tempi. For a wedding I would put in also tunes like "The Look of Love", "Just the way you are", "Call me" and "Moondance". So tunes that were not jazz originally, but which are often played by jazz artists in their own way. I think the first 3 are in the present RB.
Tunes I would pick from my own repertoire would be:
The way you look tonight
How deep is the ocean
Body and soul
How high the moon
I thought about you
I can't give you anything but love
No moon at all
The more I see you
Sway

Maybe some poptunes like:
Son of a preacherman
Make you feel my love
etc

Hope this is useful to you.
Have a good gig.
Kind regards, page

 

Edited by page

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Hello Page !

Thank you so much for your kind help !

Yes, I´m sure the main question will be to agree about the keys. It will be a pleasure for me to play for her in the keys she want´s . It shouldn´t be a problem. Once I had a gig with a  saxophonist who was on schedule an who told me "listen man, I don´t want RB keys, I got tired to play "rhythm changes" in B flat. Play it in D flat, in A flat, in B natural anything......., and it was beautiful.....

Your set list is a very good one !  Very much of the stuff I know. "The way you look tonight" ...... sure in a comfortable medium tempo, I guess. I know the tune very well because when I had to play it was considered to be  ultra-fast, that´s how I know it as an instrumental, but it must be fine to check the message of that tune when it´s played softer. Great !

Nice list of tunes, really, Ballads, medium tempos. And I agree with you there must be some of Jobin. Do singers sing "Wave" ? "Corcovado"?  stuff I think I remember from the Getz/Gilberto things.....

Maybe I should be careful how to comp for her, compin´ for singers might be different from compin for saxophonists and trumpet players ?

Kind regards, Gheorghe

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I'm a horn player, not a pianist, but in my experience with singers, the object is to support more than just "accompany". That means special attention to voice leadings (and voicings), set up a harmonic flow that guides the melody, and with voicings that give body to the singer's voice instead of doubling/covering it.

Same thing with rhythm, support, don't clutter. A good singer will leave spaces in their delivery, and you can use those to propel the piece along, and then do it differently while they sing, A bad singer won't do these things, but oh well about that, life is hard sometimes.

You may be thinking, "well, this will be easy, this is how I play with horn players". Well, not no fast, singers deliver the melody, sure, but in so doing they also have to deal with lyrics too, and that's a whole 'nother ball of wax. Lyric constructions CAN be abstracted/extrapolated as fully by a singer as they can by an instrumentalist, but unless you're dealing with Betty Carter or Jeanne Lee, that's really not gonna come readily. Most of them will be highly focused on the lyric, and besides the rhythmic imperative to get that flow right, there's also the science of vowels and consonants, and how a singer plays with those in terms of color, accent, and timing.

That's with a good singer. With a good singer, a pianist can/should really think in terms of arrangement and all that comes with it. With a bad singer, hey, fuck it. Crank it out and get the check. But the one thing that is constant between singers and instrumentalists is this - until you play with a good rhytm section, you won't know for sure how much of has been you, and how much of it has been them. So don't give a singer who's teetering either way the excuse of not being able to bring it because the rhythm section wasn't. Remove all doubt!

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11 hours ago, Gheorghe said:

Hello Page !

Thank you so much for your kind help !

Yes, I´m sure the main question will be to agree about the keys. It will be a pleasure for me to play for her in the keys she want´s . It shouldn´t be a problem. Once I had a gig with a  saxophonist who was on schedule an who told me "listen man, I don´t want RB keys, I got tired to play "rhythm changes" in B flat. Play it in D flat, in A flat, in B natural anything......., and it was beautiful.....

Your set list is a very good one !  Very much of the stuff I know. "The way you look tonight" ...... sure in a comfortable medium tempo, I guess. I know the tune very well because when I had to play it was considered to be  ultra-fast, that´s how I know it as an instrumental, but it must be fine to check the message of that tune when it´s played softer. Great !

Nice list of tunes, really, Ballads, medium tempos. And I agree with you there must be some of Jobin. Do singers sing "Wave" ? "Corcovado"?  stuff I think I remember from the Getz/Gilberto things.....

Maybe I should be careful how to comp for her, compin´ for singers might be different from compin for saxophonists and trumpet players ?

Kind regards, Gheorghe

Hi Georghe,
you're welcome.

"The way you look tonight" was one of my BB tunes, so I didn't do it with a combo. I've looked for the score, the tempo was 140 in our arrangement. You can decide yourself, whether the tune would be suitable. The difiiculty with tempo is that a singer needs to express the words. When the phrases are long, it can be a problem when the tempo is set of too fast. Let her give you a tempo upfront with the tunes. I remember I sang "The more I see you", my own translation in Dutch, at a session and the rhythm section speeded up my tempo. I could hardly get the words out right. I generally don't know this one that fast, you can try it medium tempo. It is quite lovely that way.

"Wave", "The girl from Ipanema", "Corvocado", all would do great. They also have English lyrics, which come in handy since not everyone can speak/sing in Portuguese. Or she can add a little from both languages. I do "Sway" in Spanish myself, a mambo rhythm. Bossas are lovely to use, not just for the Jobim tunes. I do "The Look", "Call me" and "The more I see you" as a bossa as well. Maybe "One note Samba" would be nice too. I also know a rumba, but that is a sad song. I wouldn't pick it for a wedding.

I think it is a bit different from accompanying hornplayers, yes. See the comments of JSngry and like I've mentioned just now, as a singer you need to express the phrases since they have meaning and you need a certain tempo for that. When the tempo is too fast, a singer can get into trouble getting the phrases out right. You can fill up in between of course, not too much but in a tasteful way. Like Jim says, don't double the melody. When your melody is doubled it is like you are tied down. Most singers, especially in jazz, like to use their own timing, like instrumentalist do too when they solo. 

I've looked at my list and noticed I didn't mention
The very thought of you
I'm beginning to see the light
Too darn hot
My baby just cares for me

Anyway, hope this helps.
Kind regards, page

Edited by page

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I keep reading the thread title as "first time with a vocal socialist"! 

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Lol, well there's a first time for everything, Scott. ;)

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Hmmm...you're right! I hadn't quite looked at it that way. :)

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Regarding "The Way You Look Tonight" at a slower tempo, Ella's reading is so straight, but so good, and Nelson's chart, like so many of his, is a perfect example of support with substance (that chord in bar 9 of the A-section is WHOA!!! and the transition to the bridge, which is the defining moment of that tune, imo, deft as hell, bringing in the strings like that, damn!).

All Ella has to do is sing the song (and yes, that's ironic, "just singing the song is one of the hardest things there is to do!).

Ballads are tough, nobody needs to be in a rush (and in this song at that tempo, there's a noticeable gap where the singer should just be quiet), but it seems like somebody always is afraid to let things settle in and be still in a good way. Maybe that's why old people do them better? :g

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Oo lovely, Jim!

"Be still in a good way." I like that description. Wisdom comes with the years, doesn't it? :)

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Once again thank you so much for your kind support, @Page, @JSngry. I´m just overwhelmed by the really useful infos you give me.

Yeah I listened to the slow version of "The Way You Look Tonight", great arrangement and really the chord in bar 9 of the A section and the transition to the bridge, just wonderful. And I like that key A flat, that´s really a good warm sound I dig.

The main point will be to forget about the way you comp for horn players, to get inside the lyrics, to let the singer set the pace and listen carefully to the way she developes the song and agree about  the right tempo for expressing the lyrics.

My luck is a got quick ears and hope I can link into it without creating a mess. I must think otherwise than I usually do. People call me for my bebop thing and I´ll have to get rid of my too Powellish touch and approach.I´m used to "hey there , give us some "Salt Peanuts" give us some heat...... See, when I do a set like I did last week , I ´d start with a rather fast stuff and switch to a complete different mood with a  very slow ballad. For example, I know the lyrics of "Polka Dots and Moobeams" but when I played it last week it got another meaning because I use the more dramatic approach of Bud so it get´s another message than that for the lyrics with the "pugnosed dream". Let´s say if a singer might do it, I have to catch the meaning of the song, not to express the drama the way I usually do....

The singer sent notice that next week or after two weeks she will mail a set list (anyway the deal is about 2/3 of the program trio with our usual program, and about 1/3 with the singer. I´m lookin forward  getting an idea of the  tunes she want´s us to do. And another point. She prepares for her master degree at some university in some other town, and the final examen will be just a few days before the gig, uh uh , and I´ll be in Eastern Europe and be back only a few days before the gig. There will not be much time to prepare, hope I manage to make things so that I won´t mess with her stuff. At least, when I get the set list, I can try to get inside the tunes the lyrics and try to find a piano approach suitable for her. Though I still didn´t get to know her, she must be good if my bass player says she´s good, so my deepest respect for her and I´m really concerned about how to make it sound reasonable good......

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Dude, check out how Shirley Horn accompanies herself...of course, that only works if you have a Shirley Horn type singer, but still...check out how she fills the spaces vs what she plays while she sings, and listen to how she leads one into the other...no matter how you do it, I'd think that what would be what you want to do, to get that sense of "wholeness", of arrangement.

Just don't try something like this, this slow of a tempo...almost certainly fatal for all but The Select Few...but talk about letting things be still, this is one of the ultimate examples of that...and again, listen to the spaces.

 

And especially on that ballad, listen to the consonants, vowels, ending of words, all that, that's what a good singer does with their voice and the words, each syllable is a sound, sometimes more than one sound, that's what makes a good singer such a groove, they do so much more with the sounds of music than do horn players just running changes. A truly great singer is about the greatest thing there is, truthfully, the original instrument executed to the fullest extent, sheeeeeet, that's music!

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Thank you JSngry, really fine to listen how she accompanies herself. Great !

A few days ago I put an Ernestine Anderson album on the turntable, with Hank Jones on piano. "Days of Wine and Roses", that also might be fine, or "Don´t get around much anymore".

Heard another album with Monty Alexander playing with her, but I like Hank Jones better. Monty Alexander is a bit too heavy.

 

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Check out Ernestine with Gene Harris backing her, When The Sun Goes Down, on Concord. Gene, of course, brings Gene, but Ernestine is strong enough to hang, and to my ears, that's a matter of pocket, of timing. Gene might be heavy in his touch, but he's loose in his feel, looser than Alexander, imo. So that's just one more thing to think about when supporting a singer, not just for the pianist, but for the whole section - are you gonna lay down a carpet for them to walk barefoot on, or even glide across, or are you gonna make them put on heels to go walk through muddy asphalt? Every singer's gonna have their own pocket, and it really does come down to micromilliseconds, so don't bother with counting to find it, you're gonna have to feel that one.

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On 9-3-2016 at 5:25 PM, Gheorghe said:

The singer sent notice that next week or after two weeks she will mail a set list (anyway the deal is about 2/3 of the program trio with our usual program, and about 1/3 with the singer. I´m lookin forward  getting an idea of the  tunes she want´s us to do. And another point. She prepares for her master degree at some university in some other town, and the final examen will be just a few days before the gig, uh uh , and I´ll be in Eastern Europe and be back only a few days before the gig. There will not be much time to prepare, hope I manage to make things so that I won´t mess with her stuff. At least, when I get the set list, I can try to get inside the tunes the lyrics and try to find a piano approach suitable for her. Though I still didn´t get to know her, she must be good if my bass player says she´s good, so my deepest respect for her and I´m really concerned about how to make it sound reasonable good......

Maybe she'll give you the keys upfront. I have a list myself, so I wouldn't be surprised. It is handy to have your repertoire in your key on pdf. I can send it upfront by e-mail that way and that is usually appreciated. When you know key and form upfront that helps a lot I think. Maybe you can tell it how it went afterwards? I would be interested for sure. Am curious about what tunes she picked too. I can only learn from that, other peoples experiences. Have fun! :)

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Hello Page: Yes sure I will tell you how it went, but it will be in early july. Until then I got other gigs, but you see how concerned I am about that gig with the singer, if I worry about it now. 

But I don´t worry about what key it will be, and the songs, well I don´t think it will be too complecated stuff, standards that a musician knows anyway . If I can manage to follow your advice and think about the lyrics and that a singer got to have the tempo to bring out the lyrics, I hope I can support her rather than interfere with her music.....

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21 hours ago, rockefeller center said:

What about 'Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes'?

??????????!

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I think that was a joke, Georghe. It is a children's song really, sometimes sang at parties to act silly. People will sing it themselves when they will feel the urge to, no need for your setlist.

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20 hours ago, page said:

I think that was a joke, Georghe. It is a children's song really, sometimes sang at parties to act silly. People will sing it themselves when they will feel the urge to, no need for your setlist.

No joke. 

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Wie gut kann die Sängerin Portugiesisch?

Mit "Head, Shoulders, ..." bist du jedenfalls auf der sicheren Seite.

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Just now I got her song list.

Sorry I didn´t answer earlier to your kind postings, but I thought I´d better wait until I get the song list and the key she want´s for each song.

Ain´t Misbehavin  in C
Time after Time in Bb
I didn´t know what time it was Eb
Love is here to stay in C
I thought about you C
Tenderly C
Dream a little Dream C
Moondance Eb
Comes Love Ab
I Remember You F
Blue Champagne A
Im beginning to see the ligth C
Howh high the Moon Eb
Body and Soul in Bb
They cant take that away in C

So it seems she´s more into swing tunes than latin, and maybe not into portugese lyrics....,

Many of the  tunes seem to be easy and I know them and played some of them on several ocasion, but not all of them. Blue Champagne and Comes Love  I don´t know. Some or the tunes I had played in other keys, maybe Tenderly i used to play in Eb for example, How High the Moon in G.

I´ll have to listen to some vocal versions of the tunes from the list.

How do you think about the song list ?

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Hi Gheorghe,
I would have added some latin songs myself, but maybe that is a taste thing. Some nice swing tunes there. Moondance would be Cm btw since it is a minor key song. I've done it in that key with a big band since the arrangement was in it. With a combo I did it in the original key Am, which I prefer. I'm beginning to see the light, I did in C as well which was Ella's key with Count Basie. I do have those sheets still, so if you need one let me know by pm. Some of these songs I did in a slightly other key but I have written them in Sibelius (music notation software) and can change the keys pressing a few buttons. I have sung "Comes love" with a jazz choir years ago, but can't remember which key it was. it is a bit funny song. I do have that sheet somewhere but not digital I think. I don't know Blue Champagne either. Anyway, if you need any sheets I might be able to help you.
Kind regards, page

Edited by page

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Hello Page, thank you for your fast reply. I remember the "I´m beginning to see the light" with Ella withz Count Basie.

My problem with sheets is, I´m quite an old fashioned guy. Never really bothered about reading sheet . Usually I listen to the tune, get the chords just from hearing it and if the form is more complicate or unusual to the stuff I frequently do, I might write the chord symbols on a little paper an that´s it. I´ll see, together with my bassist and drummer we listen to a few versions of the tunes. The key is not an issue for me. If I heard the tune once, got the chord progressions in my head , I hope I can do it in any key.

My "difficult" keys are those, that are completely unusual in jazz (A natural, D natural, B natural). I started as a "B-flat man" *smile" when I was a kid.

My advantage is though I don´t read music, I got perfect pitch, so if I hear the tune I know in what key it´s done. I hear the keys like "colors", you know.

I didn´t study music. When i was a kid, my father showed me on the keyboard the notes. He said. now this a C, now here the next a C sharp, then a D, then a D sharp and so on.

Then he would me close the eyes or let me look into another direction and would hit a note and ask "what note is it" and I might tell him. After that he might play a tune and say "listen and play it from ear", or "tell me what key I played "........

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