Jazz Vocal Perspectives

In my recent jazz history class we talked about jazz vocalists and how it was important to have an individual sound. We mentioned how Sarah Vaughan had superb technique and vocal ability and also how Billie Holiday had none of this but still commanded attention and praise through her phrasing and personal approach.
We also listened to Clark Terry perform his classic piece called “Mumbles.”  It is a 12 bar blues in which Mr. Terry does a scat/mumble hybrid and acts out a wide range of emotional expressions.
He goes from crying to laughing and from serious to inspirational without even saying a word.  He only uses mumbling sounds and some of these sounds resemble Swedish dialects and I am reminded of the skit from The Muppet Show with the Swedish Chef.  The importance of showing this clip to my class was to make it clear to them that it's not about what you are performing but how you are performing it. People will feel your emotions and resonate with your performance even if they cannot understand your words.

Lastly we talked about a clip from Nancy Wilson’s performance at the Hollywood Palace.  In this performance she brings all of the aforementioned elements to bear.  Her personal delivery of the lyric, phrasing, and vocal technique make for a memorable and hair-raising rendition of “The Very Thought of You.”

Here are the clips we discussed, enjoy:

Clark Terry “Mumbles”

Nancy Wilson “The Very Thought of You”

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