Name:

I was born at a very young age and...bud um boom...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

What Makes a Jazz Singer?

Trying to define what makes a jazz singer is similar to trying to define pornography; we know when we hear or see instances of each but we have great difficulty explaining why we know. Recently, a friend of mine said that he thought that Tony Bennett sang with honesty and told a good story but was not a jazz singer. I agreed with him but I was not sure why. Our conversation prompted me to try and figure out what the criteria might be to determine which singers deserve the jazz singer label.

Here is my list of those qualities that the perfect jazz singer would possess. I believe that the first four are essential qualities and the remaining four, while very important, are not.

Required Qualities
1. Story telling ability / taste / honesty / emotional range
2. Improvisational skills / ears / interaction skills
3. Good time / relaxed swing / hip phrasing
4. Unique style

Important but not required additional qualities
5. A good sound
6. Technique / range / can scat
7. Good intonation
8. Ability to relate to an audience

My underlying assumption is that a jazz singer should possess the same essential qualities demonstrated by jazz instrumentalists. When Johnny Hodges played a ballad he played tastefully and honestly and the result is that he told a believable story. He understood that showing off one’s technique is not in good taste and that to do so is to sacrifice honesty. He was not only a fine improviser; he also had impeccable technique and wonderful time. His lovely sound, flawless intonation and great chops were all bonuses.

One way to assess the usefulness of the above list of qualities is to use it as a guide while analyzing a few singers with whom we are familiar. Even though some of the artists I refer to are no longer with us, I will refer to them in the present tense since we can still listen to their recordings.

Billie Holiday
Billie has the required four qualities but is, at times, short on sound, technique, range and intonation. Naturally, one can argue: “If technique is the ability to execute the things one wants to express, then Billie has technique.” I agree that she can execute but I must point out that her voice is at times undependable and shaky and as a result her range, and intonation suffers. She is an example of a jazz singer who possesses the four essential qualities but does not have full and consistent access to the other four. However, her style is so unique and her ability to create a mood and tell a story is so rich and powerful, we are more than willing to accept her shortcomings.

Sarah Vaughan
Sarah, perhaps the most talented of all jazz singers, has all eight of the listed qualities. If she has a weakness, it is that she sometimes lets her prodigious technique get in the way of her story telling. She cannot resist, at times, doing a huge, exaggerated bottom note or a big swoop in a spot where it negatively alters the story mood. We marvel at her virtuosity but we cannot help notice that the story suffers a bit.

I have the same reaction to Sarah that I do to Art Tatum. Each has the ability to add scintillating filigree to a solos; but such filigree, while very impressive, detracts from the mood of the performance. I feel a bit on edge listening to Tatum because he so often squeezes in one of his magical runs just when I am getting caught up in the mood generated by the lovely changes and passionate melody playing.

Ella Fitzgerald
Ella, like Sarah, has all eight of the qualities. She also had a highly personal, almost girl-next-store voice quality that makes you like her without knowing her. Like Sarah, she could do it all—improvise, scat, swing like mad, sing in tune and tell a story. The difference between Ella and Sarah is tied more to Sarah’s harmonic knowledge. Because she is an accomplished pianist and has very educated ears, I think she is a freer and more creative improviser. However, I think Ella makes a stronger connection with the audience because she is more emotionally vulnerable.

Dianne Reeves
Ms. Reeves meets all the criteria for a jazz singer. She tells an authentic story, has fantastic time (e.g., check out her comfort in 7/4 on her “Best OF” CD), can improvise and has a unique style. She is, I believe, the most talented of the current jazz singers.


Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett has two of the essential four qualities. He tells a wonderful and authentic story and has a unique sound. I do not think, though, that he meets the criteria for jazz singing because he cannot improvise and he has, at best, average ability to swing. I think it is easy to confuse his ability to swing with his trio’s. He uses great pianists (e.g., John Bunch and Ralph Sharon) and they do an excellent job of giving the impression that he swings. Like Billie Holiday, his ability to create a mood and tell a story is so powerful that we tend to give him slack in other areas. He is, I believe, a jazz-oriented singer, not a jazz singer in the fullest sense of the term.

Billy Eckstine
I though it would be fun to contrast Tony Bennett with Billy Eckstine. Based on the above criteria, Eckstine, like Bennett, is not a jazz singer. He does not swing very hard and is not much of an improviser. He is essentially a jazz oriented crooner. He has a great sound, good technique and range and a wonderful stage presence but because of his need to emphasize his fat and unique sound he tells a so-so story. Yes, he is the legendary “B,” is very hip, dresses beautifully, had a famous bebop jazz band and hangs with jazz musicians; but these things do not qualify him as a jazz singer. He is, like Tony Bennett, a jazz oriented singer.

Kurt Elling
Though I have a couple of his CDs and admire his talent, I do not listen to Elling very much. I am put off by his sound and his uncertain intonation. However, based on the above criteria, he certainly qualifies for the label of jazz singer. He has a unique sound, can tell a story, can swing and is a skilled and creative improviser. I include him in this analysis because he is an example of a singer who meets the essential criteria but because of his sound, will probably never become widely popular. I have played his CDs for friends and few have liked him. Like me, they have admired his ability but not his sound.

Summary

I do not believe it is possible to definitively list those qualities which determine who is or who is not a jazz singer. The above criteria are simply my attempt to analyze and answer a very difficult question. Hopefully, I have written a piece that will generate some interesting discussion. There are probably as many definitions of jazz singing as there are listeners and I welcome hearing from anyone who has thoughts on the subject. I am taking the liberty of including a short list of those singers whom I believe meet the above criteria. The list is far from complete and I have no doubt that I have left folks off who belong on the list.

One obvious drawback to my criteria list is that I ended up leaving some famous blues singers off the list (e.g., Bessie Smith) because the recorded samples I have of their music indicate that they could not improvise. I think that this points out how limiting such a list can be. A friend suggested that perhaps I should make the cutoff for inclusion three out of four of the essential criteria. It is an interesting thought. Psychiatrists routinely assign a diagnostic label to patients who exhibit three out of four symptoms listed in the DSM IV Diagnostic Manual. Why can't jazz fans do the same?

Singers who I believe meet the jazz criteria listed above
Louis Armstrong, Betty Carter, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Shirley Horn, Anita O’Day, Dianne Reeves, Kurt Elling, Joe Williams, Mel Torme, Abby Lincoln, Bobby McFerrin, Carmen McRae, Cassandra Wilson, Jimmy Rushing, Lou Rawls, Jackie and Roy Kral, Ray Charles.




.

43 Comments:

Blogger jncarduc3136 said...

Haha! That's a funny story Dad! It's funny to think of a room of people applauding your "farts."

7:33 PM  
Blogger AmberlyThrower said...

亞洲風暴貼圖區亞洲露點寫真集亞洲av成人站亞洲無碼潮吹美女貼圖照亞洲瘋亞洲瘋情網亞洲短片亞洲禁果亞洲禁果影城亞洲禁果影城姐弟亞洲禁果影城日本亞洲線上影片亞洲美女圖亞洲美女寫真圖片亞洲色影片亞洲色情自拍影片亞洲色情風暴亞洲色情貼圖區亞洲成人下載手機色小遊戲中部援交中部一夜情中部交友中部人聊天中部人聊天室中興嘟嘟房中國色情片網站中國女人性愛短片中國性愛城中國愛人情色網中國交有中年男的性天堂中年美女中年聊天中年視訊中年同志中部情色自拍照中部免費視訊聊天室中部視訊聊天室聊天室下載永平工商回收場做愛影片

12:03 AM  
Blogger 3d電影 said...

好熱鬧喔 大家踴躍的留言 讓部落格更有活力.........................

6:17 AM  
Blogger 太可怕 said...

人是受想像力所支配的。........................................

11:54 PM  
Blogger 偉誠 said...

色情qvod色情視訊電話色情美眉寫真色情片免色情區咪咪情色區哈比成人網金瓶成人影片交流區金平梅近親相姦免費影片松島楓看波波貼圖區波波線上美女拳波波線上遊網波波線上戲網波霸美女貼圖區玩女人視訊網玩女人試看片玩女人影片直播色情片直播免費影片芭比成人情色花王影片哈比淫色網哈免費小遊戲洪爺色情免費影片洪爺色情網站影片洪爺色論壇洪爺免費直播片洪爺動畫色咪咪影片網一夜情聊天室聊天室正妹牆

7:35 AM  
Blogger 洪彬彬 said...

thank for share, it is very important . ̄︿ ̄..................................................

9:27 PM  
Blogger v奎峰奎峰 said...

how do u do?xvideo打飛機專用網洪爺免費洪爺色情片洪爺貼圖區洪爺成人線上洪爺影城洪爺色論壇洪爺貼圖洪爺成年人網洪爺免費色情洪爺色情貼援交妹辣妹野球拳情色文學情趣聊天室性感辣妹裸體遊戲做愛偷拍一夜情視訊洪爺色情貼洪爺免費色情洪爺成年人網洪爺貼圖洪爺色論壇洪爺影城洪爺成人線上洪爺貼圖區洪爺色情片洪爺免費洪爺色情貼洪爺免費色情洪爺成年人網洪爺貼圖洪爺色論壇洪爺影城洪爺成人線上洪爺貼圖區洪爺色情片洪爺免費洪爺免費洪爺色情片洪爺貼圖區洪爺影城洪爺色論壇洪爺貼圖洪爺成年人網洪爺免費色情洪爺色情貼洪爺成人線上

7:39 PM  
Blogger 逸凡逸凡 said...

淫水淫女情慾情色做愛限制級波霸口交18禁貼圖寫真視訊援交露點爆乳潮吹裸體裸照裸女愛愛無碼尋夢視訊聊天a漫a片a圖一夜情一葉情人妻激情情色寫真美女自拍辣妹自拍正妹自拍

3:50 AM  
Blogger IdellA231_Fecteau1 said...

歐美a免費線上看,ok論壇武則天視訊聊天室武則天影音視訊聊天室比基尼美女的奶,玩美女人影音秀比基尼辣妹比基尼辣妹dudu sex本土自拍天堂34c寶貝視訊本土自拍貼圖t 6成人網頁月光論壇日本 avdvd 介紹免費觀賞34c視訊俱樂部d736 免費聊天室影音交友616 情色聊天室免費視訊聊天1768視訊美女maxworld免費聊天交友61618jack主入口豆豆聊天室hi5 tv 免費影片77p2p影片區倉井空免費影片a片-sexdiy影城aio168論壇 bt成人網聊天室交友have視訊美女engin視訊交友iccgogo2sex咆哮小老鼠入口咆哮小老鼠咆哮小老鼠論壇aa免費影片jp素人露出大全集免費交友聊天fm358一夜成人聊天室交友網-視訊百事台南視訊xxx383美女寫真aa

7:08 PM  
Blogger 志義 said...

開懷幸福的生活,是每個人的夢想~~希望大家都能夠實現!..............................

9:22 PM  
Blogger 上心 said...

TAHNKS FOR YOUR SHARING~~~VERY NICE ........................................

7:32 PM  
Blogger 明NathanA_Schulle said...

幫你推個文~~期待更新!加油啊! .............................................

9:12 PM  
Blogger VincenzoJ詩婷 said...

如此活躍的文字, 妳好棒哦! .............................................

5:27 AM  
Blogger Tro0223y_Millan said...

免費線上看成人影片 辣妹視訊網 色訊聊天室 免費看色情 豆豆聊天室交友論壇 歐美女優介紹 性感護士圖 論壇線上影片 自拍走光偷拍 激情視訊聊天室 女同志愛愛貼片 情趣貼片 18限漫 少女的性愛故事 小魔女免費成人影城 a片無碼線上 情色熟女貼圖 線上色情片觀賞 一夜情 免費a片383 完美影音女人 玩美女短片試看 波波線上遊戲網美女 辣妹性感裸體貼圖 人妻的秘密線上看 人妻熟女貼圖 免費一對多 免費視訊 a圖 寫真集辣妹 85cc影片下載 微風成人短片收集站 live173 sex 成人貼圖 援交辣妹 台灣情人視訊 a片 av女片 洪爺影城 大奶美女圖 18-sexus 免費下載av 成人巨乳 桌布性感 後宮電影線上a片免費看 限制級成人 網愛影音live0204 性愛圖貼 模特兒走光貼圖

11:55 AM  
Blogger 730A_ngelinaRabideau0 said...

閱讀您的BLOG文章,真是件快樂的事!!.........................

12:19 AM  
Blogger 廖淑凡 said...

Some people cannot see the wood for the trees. ............................................................

10:56 AM  
Blogger burtong said...

當一個人內心能容納兩樣相互衝突的東西,這個人便開始變得有價值了。...............................................................

1:15 AM  
Blogger 國昆國昆 said...

It is no use crying over spilt milk..................................................................

7:55 PM  
Blogger 宛齊陳 said...

大師手筆﹐果然不凡.................................................................

9:11 PM  
Blogger AlaynaGainer1姿吟 said...

生存乃是不斷地在內心與靈魂交戰;寫作是坐著審判自己。....................................................................

11:04 AM  
Blogger 文辰文辰 said...

與人相處不妨多用眼睛說話,多用嘴巴思考,....................................................................

7:05 PM  
Blogger 靜宸靜宸 said...

成熟,就是有能力適應生活中的模糊。.................................................................

6:30 AM  
Blogger 江彭珮陽v彥璋 said...

向著星球長驅直進的人,反比踟躕在峽路上的人,更容易達到目的。............................................................

3:45 PM  
Blogger ju吳phe宇te佳ns said...

閱讀您的BLOG文章,真是件快樂的事!..................................................................

9:18 PM  
Blogger ju吳phe宇te佳ns said...

格主的部落格內容真豐富~~看得很開心..................................................................

9:27 PM  
Blogger 原秋原秋 said...

far from eye, far from heart...................................................

1:16 AM  
Blogger 婷珊 said...

April showers bring May flowers...................................................................

5:09 PM  
Blogger 蕙春蕙春 said...

好的部落格,希望您能繼續堅持!!!............................................................

5:09 PM  
Blogger 于倫 said...

God never shuts one door but he opens another...................................................

12:55 AM  
Blogger 淑福淑福淑福 said...

Gods mill grinds slow but sure...................................................

5:41 PM  
Blogger 琬安琬安 said...

實在是太完美了!非常感谢!给心心!(〃ω〃)............................................................

6:25 AM  
Blogger 吳淑芬吳淑芬 said...

唯有用熱情、用智慧去觀察事物,這事物才會把他的秘密,洩漏給我們............................................................

1:50 AM  
Blogger 于劉辰原蔡毓 said...

臨淵羨魚,不如退而結網。......................................................

1:26 AM  
Blogger 張志亦劉美玲 said...

人應該做自己認為對的事,而不是一味跟著群眾的建議走。..................................................

1:28 AM  
Blogger 建依萍彰 said...

Poverty is stranger to industry.........................................

6:57 AM  
Blogger 建邱勳 said...

婚姻對男人來說是賭他的自由,對女人而言卻是賭她的幸福。.................................................................

4:14 AM  
Blogger 偉曹琬 said...

「仁慈」二個字,就能讓冬天三個月都溫暖。..................................................

11:25 PM  
Blogger 家唐銘 said...

人因夢想而偉大,要堅持自己的理想哦!............................................................

4:34 PM  
Blogger 1615 said...

無私分享,很不錯哦~謝謝~~.................................[/url]...............

12:11 AM  
Blogger 怡靜怡靜怡靜怡雯 said...

知識可以傳授,智慧卻不行。每個人必須成為他自己。. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

12:33 AM  
Blogger 郭任任任任任俊任任 said...

人生有些波折,才能有些成長,所以不論順逆,凡是成長、成功的助緣,都應該心存感激。.................................................

5:19 AM  
Blogger 江仁趙雲虹昆 said...

很精彩的部落格 期待你的繼續加油..................................................

4:34 PM  
Blogger 宜DimpleHollow欣 said...

人必須心懷希望,才會活的快樂,日子才過得充實,有意義,有朝氣,有信心。......................................... ........................

2:15 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home