The Book Of Jazz - online reference book

Its Nature, Instruments, Sources, Sounds, Development & Performers

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The Blues and the Human Voice
Vaughan, who worked with the latter pair in the Earl Hines band in 1943. Here the jazz qualities were subtler, more oblique; one had to be a musician to realize that she was herself musically literate, capable of implying changes in the harmonic form of the song through slight changes in the melody. The qualities that have earned Sarah the admiration of musicians are not all jazz qualities: they are the gentle fluency of her phrasing, the cool-water soprano sound, the ability suddenly to reach out for high notes and hit them with stunning accuracy. At times Sarah Vaughan is a jazz singer; more often, today, she is a superior popular singer of commercial songs. Her journeys between these adjacent areas can be observed as her musical setting changes, or her material, or even her mood. The Vaughan soprano, and this may be significant, has never been more gloriously presented than in her recording of The Lord's Prayer,
Sarah Vaughans success was a prelude to the advent of a succession of singers whose virtues in many instances were more visual than aural, all of whom were classified as "jazz singers* merely because they were able to phrase with a semblance of a beat, were discovered and launched by entrepreneurs within the jazz orbit, or used jazz instrumentalists for their accompani­ments. This has led to the acceptance among jazz enthusiasts of such performers as Teddi King, Beverly Kenney and Ruth Price, adequate singers whose art at best is of a niiniaturist nature.
The artists who live on this borderline between Birdland and Tin Pan Alley can be numbered in the scores. They include nationally famous popular singers like Nat Cole (whose singing and settings have drifted further and further from jazz in late years, though he remains a thorough craftsman and continues to instill a jazz beat into his fast-tempo performances) and Frank Sinatra, a strong favorite among jazz musicians (he won the ''Musicians* Musicians" poll in the Yearbook of Jazz with 56 votes to Cole's 13). In the same fringe zone are Mary Ann McCall, Al Hibbler (a good blues singer now and then, though generally too artificially mannered even to be a competent pop artist), Jackie Cain and Roy Krai (among the earliest "bop vocal" teams and still a delightfully rhythmic pair of per­formers), Jimmy Grissom, and numberless others.