Great vocals can actually be some of the purest forms of jazz….despite what some jazz snobs might think. We all have some kind of *voice*…..and how we use it is a form of ‘improvisation’. Vocals can also serve as a translator of what the composer and the instrumental soloists want to communicate.
For this program I discovered a few newer vocalists—such as Gregory Porter, John Boutte, Jazzmeia Horn, and Becca Stevens (with Snarky Puppy). Then there are the ‘veterans’—great singers that almost everyone agrees are great jazz vocalists: Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, and, more recently, Patricia Barber. The latter singer, by the way, starts off the program with a jazz tune that many jazz musicians like to do, but feels inaccessible to many listeners because of its complexity. But you listen to her sing it—-and its suddenly accessible.
I also play a few more obscure singers. The great Eugene McDaniels will blow you away with what he and Ted Brancato do to the old spiritual “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”. And Bob Dorough does something with an old Frank Sinatra hit from 1946 that is very un ‘Frank’ like. And have you ever heard of Nellie Lutcher? Then there is Havana’s (and for a while, Toronto’s) Telmary Diaz—-integrating spoken word with jazz singing; the inflections in her voice even as she talks has such a ‘jazz-singer’ feel.
And finally….I need to correct a serious mistake I made in this program.. I play the great Toronto singer Barbra Lica with the Roberto Rosenman Quartet. Every ‘gypsy jazz’ lover knows that Roberto Rosenman is a fine guitarist in that style. What do I do? I refer to him as a violinist….just because there is a very fine violinist as part of his quartet. Sorry about that…..I don’t know what I was thinking. (I know I could go back and re-edit it but, hey!, to err is human, right? So I figured its good to have a bit more humanity in this episode 🙂