Jump to content

Jazz Vocalists


Neon
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hello guys!

Some of have probably met me on "that other thread". That was certainly heart stopping at times! Actually, it was more bowel opening, at least for me!

I thought I'd drop by and post something to do with jazz. I started along the lines of "what color does jazz make you think of?" ;)

(burnt orange)

And then I though, nah, it's probably been done before. So, then I thought I'd begin with "I like jazz", but (1) I've already said that, and (2) it's too general. Jazz is like alcohol - I like beer, but I don't like whisky. So, what jazz DON'T I like?

And I immediately thought Cleo Laine. Now, I apologise right away to anyone who does like Cleo's singing. I really wish I could hear it like you do. But, you know, I studiously avoid jazz albums with vocalists JUST IN CASE they sound like her (is it called scat?). I stick to instrumental jazz.

I notice that organissimo doesn't have a vocalist. I searched the boards for discussions about vocalists and couldn't find any. So, I thought I'd start one.

Do all jazz vocalists sound like Cleo?

How can one appreciate her style?

Do any of you feel the same way?

Or am I talking rubbish?

How about some recommendations? (obviously, for singers NOT like Cleo ;) )

Incidentally, although you have a forum for non-jazz music, you don't seem to have one for non-organissimo-jazz music. I guess that means the whole board is the right place to post a jazz topic?

Edited by Neon
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 76
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

The last name on the AMG list of "similar artists" is a little perplexing:

Diane Witherspoon Annie Ross Helen Merrill Susannah McCorkle Chris Connor Patti Page Julie London Peggy Lee Rosemary Clooney Phil Upchurch

:blink:

Incidentally, although you have a forum for non-jazz music, you don't seem to have one for non-organissimo-jazz music. I guess that means the whole board is the right place to post a jazz topic?

There's an area at the top of the board reserved for organissimo discussions. The rest of the board is "anything goes".

As far as jazz vocalists go, I've heard some very nice things here and there, but I'm not overly passionate about them either.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden, Fats Waller, Ray Nance, Billie Holiday, Hoagy Carmichael, Red Allen, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, Sara Vaughn, Una Mae Carlisle, Helen Merrill. . . . I've learned to like many jazz vocalists. I like Norah Jones as well, though I'd not necessarily call her primarily a jazz vocalist!

They don't all sound like Cleo Laine. In fact the fact that they all sound like themselves is what makes them jazz singers in many ways. (And why I would understand Norah being placed in that camp for some of her work.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cleo Laine? Fine singer as far as chops go, but she does nothing for me musically, ESPECIALLY when considered as "jazz". Just not to my liking.

But "jazz vocalists" per se? LOTS of favorites. I really dig what a good singer can do with the interpretation of lyrics (Abbey Lincoln, Helen Merrill, Joe Lee Wilson, Andy Bey, the list goes on) or musical inventiveness (Sarah Vaughn, Betty Carter, Sheila Jordan, the list goes on), to say nothing of the singers who cover both grounds (Jimmy Scott, Eddie Jefferson, Shirley Horn, Johnny Hartman, Ella at her best, THAT list goews on). Then there's the solid, jazz/blues guys like Joe Williams, some Lou Rawls, Jimmy Witherspoon, and Jimmy Rushing (to name a few off the top of my head, who are all about the groove and the soul, the vocal equivalent of a good organ trio. Then there's Billie Holliday...

Singers, GOOD singers, have an advantage that instrumentalists lack - lyrics. Now, if an instrumentalist is all about music from a theoretical standpoint (not a bad thing at all in and of itself), then lyrics won't be all that important. But if the object of the game is to tell a story, then how can lyrics NOT be an asset? But - that asset is also a burden that the instrumentalist DOESN'T have, because, in the words of somebody, somewhere, at some time, "that which is too trivial to be spoken is usually sung". MOST lyrics are nice, neat, glossy expressions of simpler (although universal to one degree or another) emotions, and it's up to the singer to personally invest them with depth, to bring out the more "mature" emotions that weren't necessarily inherent in them in the first place. It's a tough nut to make if you think about it (or even more daringly, attempt to do it), and it's somewhat (and I stress, SOMEWHAT) understandable why singers overall tend to be a moody, tempermental, often flaky lot - what they do, the good ones anyway, is a very demanding task.

Myself, I didn't really get into, REALLY into, singers until about 7 or so years ago, but when I did, it was hard and heavy. These days, I find myself actually PREFERRING to listen to recordings by singers over 50% of the time, andoften enough gravitate towards singers of the ilk of Sinatra, Cole, etc, those for who a jazz feeling is but a portion of their overall expressin, singers who deal with the song as a song, with "genre" being less important than creating a little 3 minute vignette with a full range of emotions, subtexts, and stuff like that. You don't have to be a "jazz singer" to do that!

The voice, the "original" instrument, the only one with absolutely NO physical distance bertween instrument & player, is a powerful tool, and it's no surprise that instrumentalists of ALL eras have incorporated vocal effects of one kind or another into their playing, be it tonal quality or be it actual inflections or other "effects". Show me a musician of ANY genre who doesn't have SOME vocal quality to their playing and I'll show you a musician that I'll not spend much time listening to.

The kind of "jazz singers" that I DON'T care for are the ones who try, and I mean NOTICABLY try, to be either "hip", "sophisticated", "swinging", or any other quality that they feel the music is "supposed" to have. Singing is to different from playing for me in this regard - if it ain't a NATURAL expression of who and what you are, there's a gap between performer and performance that I can feel, and it's a feeling I really don't care for at all. Of course, that's a totally subjective matter, and the list of "jazz singers" that I'll go out of my way to avoid will contain names that will be on somebody else's "must hear" list, so no sense in giving recs on who to avoid. Suffice it to say, though, that if I did, Cleo Laine would be on there somewhere, and probably nearer the top than the bottom.

Edited by JSngry
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks again for your input, Jim.

The kind of "jazz singers" that I DON'T care for are the ones who try, and I mean NOTICABLY try, to be either "hip", "sophisticated", "swinging", or any other quality that they feel the music is "supposed" to have. Singing is to different from playing for me in this regard - if it ain't a NATURAL expression of who and what you are, there's a gap between performer and performance that I can feel, and it's a feeling I really don't care for at all.

I think this has been my main barrier to appreciating vocal jazz more deeply and wholeheartedly. I tend to be more open to vocals in other types of music, since hipness isn't as much of a concern outside of jazz.

But you did remind me that I love the John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman album, I just haven't pulled it out in a while. Bobby McFerrin is one of a kind, and Cassandra Wilson does some nice stuff. There's lots out there that I'm sure I would like if I were exposed to it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Neon, like you, I avoided vocal jazz for quite a while. I dunno, something about it just didn't click. Now I'm into it, but I agree with you on Cleo Laine. She does absolutely nothing for me.

It was Louis Armstrong who first got me into the vocal side, which is strange because I couldn't stand him at first. Now I think he's great! Other favorites are Anita O'Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday. Of modern singers, I like Tierney Sutton, Brenda Boykin and Mary Stallings. I'm warming to Bob Dorough more each time I hear him.

One singer that I'm embarrassed to admit I'd never heard much of before until last week is Nina Simone. There was a special on her on the local jazz station (KCSM; you can hear them at KCSM.org on your computer) and I was completely blown away. I have got to hear more by this woman!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Neon, firstly I would like to say that I really like Norah and am very happy with her success. Regarding Cleo Laine, she may well be the most famous living jazz singer in the UK (go figure), but like the others here, I have to say she leaves me cold and you should in no way judge other jazz vocalists by your experience of listening to her.

I agree with Jim and would say that you owe it to yourself to give Sinatra a spin. I have friends who really like jazz and others that don't, but they all enjoy listening to Francis Albert.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me, on the female side, there's Billie. She's the only one who can make me feel every word of a lyric and at the same time be as interesting and as soulful as any instrumentalist. Every other singer is either/or.

On the male side, there's Louis - one of a kind, the source of jazz instrumentals and vocals.

There are other vocalists I enjoy listening to, but I could live without them. I wouldn't want to live without Billie and Louis.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting that some of us came to vocal jazz later rather than earlier. Many people I know who like jazz entered into it through vocal jazz, primarily, I think, because they were used to hearing songs with words, and it was a more comfortable point of departure on the jazz journey. I was always drawn to the well-known greats, such as Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Jimmy Rushing (who gave me my first moment of jazz satori), and Sarah Vaughan. These days I listen to a lot of vocal jazz; some of my current faves include Teri Thornton, the aforementioned Nina Simone and Betty Carter, Anita O'Day, Una Mae Carlisle... more than I can think of right now, actually, and I always seem to be discovering new ones.

I grew up with vocal jazz in our house because my mother was a jazz vocalist until the late 1960's. She always had her Webcor stereo record player fired up and swinging.. I remember her listening to Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Dakota Staton, Ella Fitzgerald, June Christy, Blossom Deary, Mose Allison, Jack Sheldon, and especially Carmen McRae and Nancy Wilson.

I particularly remember the Summer of 1961, around the time when the NancyWilson /Cannonball Adderly Quintet album came out on Capitol Records. My mom wore that record out! It is to this day one of the greatest Jazz recordings ever made.. Everything Nancy sings on this album is fresh, and Cannonball, brother Nat, Joe Zawinul, Sam Jones, and Louis Hayes play soulfully on every track.

The other vocal Jazz album that got equal play around our house at the time was the Camen McRae album released on Columbia entitled, "Carmen McRae Sings Lover Man And Other Billie Holiday Classics".. This record cooks from start to finish! Joining Carmen on this record date was tenor man Eddy "Lockjaw" Davis. The perfect match for Carmen, who I always felt phrased like a soulful tenor player. Upon listening to this recording it becomes obvious how deeply Carmen and "Jaws" emotionally inspired each other as well as the other musicians on the session. The arrangements and musicianship are superb!

Both of these albums have been re-issued and deserve a serious listen!

Also, there is a male Jazz vocalist of note out of Detroit by the name of Harvey Thompson. Harvey has a style and range somewhat like Johnny Hartman or Joe williams and can sing in a falsetto range as well. Harvey is not only a dynamic singer with impeccable phrasing and intonation, he is also a very charismatic entertainer as well. Harvey has 2 Cds out, the latest one was recently recorded in Japan and hopefully will be available on the internet somewhere. Harvey Thompson is yet to be signed by a US label and his current success and notoriety are mostly in Europe and Japan.

Harvey will be joining Organissimo for a 5 day Summer tour from June 26th to June 30th. If anyone is interested contact me or B3er for additional tour info. All the gigs are going to be in northern and west Michigan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am not really much of vocal jazz fan. Norah sings a nice tune but that's it. Rene Marie "Live at Jazz Standard " on the other hand is utterly fantastic and that's me speaking as real sceptic re vocal jazz. Amazing control, soul and real improvisational skills not unlike Betty Carter. Highly recommended.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Neon, glad to see you posting here. :)

Like a few others around here, I've never been much for vocal jazz. Not entirely sure why, but here are a few factors. I'm a singer myself ('classical', I'm a baritone in the Kansas City Symphony Chorus). But despite this, I am really pretty uninterested in both vocal 'classical' music (and especially Opera (yuck!!), although I handle 'art song' better), and I'm not really interested much in vocal jazz. I've sung material from operas a time or two, and both as a listener and as a performer, Opera leaves me cold. And I can't sing jazz at all, not even if my life depended on it.

That said, there are a couple vocal jazz things that I have come to enjoy more than I care to admit....

I've heard a few things by Andy Bey that I've liked a lot more than I expected to, and Johnny Hartman's work (especially with John Coltrane) is also really quite beautiful.

All that said, I still can appreciate the talent of some jazz vocalists, even thought that's not really my bag. For instance...

There's Kansas City's own Kevin Mahogany, who I got to hear quite a bit (without really even trying) back when he still lived in K.C. in the mid-90's. (His wife is also an excellent photographer, primarily of jazz artists, I might add.)

People go back and forth about whether Sinatra was a jazz singer or not. I won't comment, other than to say that I love what Sinatra does with songs. Again, I don't have much, cuz I'm naturally just not drawn to vocal music (outside of rock/pop/alternative), but since I'm a singer (and especially since I'm a baritone) there is no one I can think of who can sing that kind of material better than him. I have quite a bit of respect for Tony Bennett, for similar reasons.

I have very little female vocal jazz, so I won't even try to talk much about that - since I know so little of the material.

Although I will mention that I generally liked Norah's CD, probably because it wasn't like most of the vocal jazz that I have so little interest in. I think it will be interesting to see what directions she takes, musically, and if she ventures into any interesting teritories with that beautiful voice of hers.

Oh, one other mention of a femail vocalist who I rather like, who I think has a lot of jazz-like qualities (sometimes), and that's k.d. lang. I've always wanted to hear her do an album of Cole Porter tunes, or something like that. I think she can sing the socks off anything.

Edited by Rooster_Ties
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh, one other mention of a femail vocalist who I rather like, who I think has a lot of jazz-like qualities (sometimes), and that's k.d. lang. I've always wanted to hear her do an album of Cole Porter tunes, or something like that. I think she can sing the socks off anything.

k.d. did a vresion of Porter's "So In Love" on the First "Red, Hot, & Blue" thing that was terriffic, and a live version on the Letterman show (a few nights after the airing of the RH&B TV special) that was stunning, full of the sultry melancholia that is often at the root of Porter's "best" songs but that most singers, for whatever reason, seem to overlook, and that the RH&B version only hinted at. Wish I had taped it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the great responses. So much to read, before deciding which water to dip my toe into!

It's really odd how we individually perceive an artist's particular genre (or maybe I'm just odd :wacko: ). I love Sinatra, Armstrong, Nat King Cole. I've never really categorised them as jazz singers - just great singers. Maybe it's just female jazz singers I'm put off - or maybe modern jazz singers. Not that I'd put Cleo Laine into a modern category - but neither is she in the definitive "classical" jazz section. At least in my mind.

I thought Rooster's comment was interesting:

... I am really pretty uninterested in both vocal 'classical' music (and especially Opera (yuck!!) ... Opera leaves me cold.  And I can't sing jazz at all, not even if my life depended on it.

Firstly because here is a classically trained singer who doesn't like opera (oh, yes, I like this guy!), but more interestingly because he can't sing jazz.

My wife is a classically trained pianist. She can "play jazz" if there's a score to follow. She cannot, to save her life, improvise "jazzically" and she'd really love to. This could start a whole new thread: Does classical training hamper jazz interpretation?

Back to vocalists: anyone heard any Blu Cantrell? I understand her parents' background is in jazz - and it shines through in a number of her songs .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've heard a few things by Andy Bey that I've liked a lot more than I expected to, and Johnny Hartman's work (especially with John Coltrane) is also really quite beautiful.

Andy Bey is a great vocalist! The first time I heard him was on Stanley Clark's album "Children Of Forever" along with Chick Corea, Joe Farrell, Pat Martino, and Lenny White.. I was blown away!

A couple years later someone turned me on to an album entitled, "Andy & the Bey Sisters".. Definately worth a listen if you can find it...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh, one other mention of a femail vocalist who I rather like, who I think has a lot of jazz-like qualities (sometimes), and that's k.d. lang.  I've always wanted to hear her do an album of Cole Porter tunes, or something like that.  I think she can sing the socks off anything.

k.d. did a vresion of Porter's "So In Love" on the First "Red, Hot, & Blue" thing that was terriffic, and a live version on the Letterman show (a few nights after the airing of the RH&B TV special) that was stunning, full of the sultry melancholia that is often at the root of Porter's "best" songs but that most singers, for whatever reason, seem to overlook, and that the RH&B version only hinted at. Wish I had taped it.

Yes, I have that RH&B CD, and that's exacty why I wish she would record a whole disc of Porter tunes. That one tune is stunning, and she has the voice of a godess, IMHO.

(And that's coming from someone (me) who's not at all naturally drawn to female vocalists of that sort.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Something else that's been bugging me the last few years is the trend of marketing what are essentially "cabaret singers" as "jazz singers". I'll not name names, but you know the type - they come out all glammed up just oozing of "sophistication" and take us on a trip throught the Great American songbook, throw in a few "obscurities" just to reinforce their "sophistication", and they do it all with something resembling a jazz rhythm section and without a hint of any feeling for the lyric and/or the melody other than how impressed they are with themselves for singinging such "sophisticated" material. We are supposed to feel special for having the good taste to enjoy such a presentation. Nobody breaks a sweat or sheds a tear, except on cue. Hoopty Damn Doo!

I'd be hard pressed to define exactly what "jazz singing" actually is, but much less so to define what it's NOT, and this ain't it.

Edited by JSngry
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh yeah - scatting. Most singers should leave it alone becasue they don't have THAT kind of musical knowledge. It's ok for a REAL Swing-or-earlier based singer to do some whompdidomps, but when you get somebody doing an otherwise "modern" presentation and all they can muster is a lot of repeated note blopdeblops or some really basic lickage, it's embarassing for all concerned (except, apparently, the singer...). You want to "sing like a horn player", then SING like a horn player, dammit! Learn some harmony, some theory, SOMETHING. Sing what a GOOD horn player would play, not what a hack would put out in a desperate attempt to get over.

Jon Hendricks - now THERE'S a motherfucker who can (could, anyway) do it right. I caught him 3 nights out of a 5 night engagement in Albuquerque back in 1982, and each night he did "Stablemates", each night he scatted on it, and each night he did something different while doing so, improvising with the same harmonic awareness (including extensions, substitutions, and alterations) tonal shading, and rhythmic flexabilty and subtlety that a horn player would. No jiveass blipblopbloodies for this cat - he sung a solo, a REAL solo.

Not too many singers can hit it like that, or even CLOSE to like that. But that doesn't stop them... :rmad::rmad::rmad::rmad::rmad::rmad::rmad::rmad::rmad::rmad::rmad::rmad::rmad::rmad::rmad::rmad::rmad::rmad::rmad:

Edited by JSngry
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...