Vocal Jazz

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Probably the easiest genre to define of all as the title says it best. Obviously here is where you will find vocalists who sing in a distictive jazz style, or styles I should say because although there is a similarity of delivery in the jazz nuances of these listed singers, the performing era and genre style of singers you will find here ranges from Billy Holliday to Doris Day and on to Norah Jones.

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Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm | 60 min. caching

FRANK SINATRA Come Dance With Me! (with Billy May And His Orchestra) Album Cover Come Dance With Me! (with Billy May And His Orchestra)
FRANK SINATRA
4.81 | 7 ratings
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FRANK SINATRA Watertown Album Cover Watertown
FRANK SINATRA
4.91 | 4 ratings
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DIANA KRALL The Girl in the Other Room Album Cover The Girl in the Other Room
DIANA KRALL
5.00 | 2 ratings
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BOBBY MCFERRIN The Voice Album Cover The Voice
BOBBY MCFERRIN
4.98 | 2 ratings
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FRANK SINATRA My Way Album Cover My Way
FRANK SINATRA
4.76 | 4 ratings
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FRANK SINATRA It Might As Well Be Swing Album Cover It Might As Well Be Swing
FRANK SINATRA
4.95 | 2 ratings
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FRANK SINATRA A Swingin' Affair! Album Cover A Swingin' Affair!
FRANK SINATRA
4.82 | 3 ratings
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FRANK SINATRA Come Fly With Me Album Cover Come Fly With Me
FRANK SINATRA
4.67 | 5 ratings
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FRANK SINATRA Come Swing With Me! Album Cover Come Swing With Me!
FRANK SINATRA
4.52 | 3 ratings
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NORAH JONES Come Away With Me Album Cover Come Away With Me
NORAH JONES
4.42 | 5 ratings
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KURT ELLING Close Your Eyes Album Cover Close Your Eyes
KURT ELLING
4.50 | 2 ratings
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PEGGY LEE (VOCALS) Black Coffee With Peggy Lee Album Cover Black Coffee With Peggy Lee
PEGGY LEE (VOCALS)
4.50 | 2 ratings
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This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy JMA!

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vocal jazz Music Reviews

BEATA PATER Fire Dance

Album · 2017 · Vocal Jazz
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js
Beata Pater’s first five albums could be called ‘typical’ vocal jazz albums, as they featured the usual mix of standards and originals. That’s not to say her vocal approach has not been inspired, instead, she has received high marks for her flexible and fluid style, but no previous album she has made could prepare her followers for her latest, “Fire Dance”. On this new one, Pater employed Alex Danson to write eleven new originals, which Pater then arranged for multiple wordless vocal overdubs supported by a saxophone trio and a four piece electric rhythm section. The end result is a sort of modern big band made up mostly of Pater’s voice multi-tracked up to sixteen times on some cuts. The multi-tracked vocals sometimes have a classic vocal jazz ensemble sound that may remind some of The Swingle Singers or Manhattan Transfer, while the overdubbed wordless sounds may remind some of Bobby McFerrin, but for much of “Fire Dance“, Pater has crafted a sound that is unique to this album.

Musically this album pulls from a variety of styles including modern RnB, post bop and fusion from the Middle East, North Africa, and Eastern Europe. The end result is sometimes similar to Weather Report in the late 70s, or any of Joe Zawinul’s bands since WR. Imagine the Swingle Singers covering classic Weather Report material and you might have a clue as to what is going on here. Along with Pater’s lead vocals, the saxophonists occasionally take short solos, and even exchange in free three way interplay on a couple cuts.

The make or break on here is Pater’s approach to wordless vocals. No doubt this was a very risky record to make, many have a right to fear what an album based around wordless vocals might sound like, but “Fire Dance” is a success due to a very careful use of vocal sounds that never become annoying or embarrassing. Pater is also careful to never overuse the so-called ‘scatting’ technique, a decision that saves this album from potential indulgence. Instead, all of the multi-tracked vocals on here are carefully arranged, much like a complex big band chart. Top tracks include two beautifully abstract numbers that appear in the middle of the CD, title track “Fire Dance” and “The Princess”. Both feature soaring vocals that recall a pre-Renaissance European style, as well as a classic Middle Eastern sound.

REBECCA KILGORE Moonshadow Dance

Album · 2016 · Vocal Jazz
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Carmel
Rebecca Kilgore is a song stylist extraordinaire, known for her effortless portrayals of the Great American Songbook, with more than 40 recordings to her credit. She has appeared with Michael Feinstein at Carnegie Hall and on “A Prairie Home Companion,” and has been a frequent guest on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross. She was inducted into the Jazz Society of Oregon’s Hall Of Fame in 2003 and to the Oregon Music Hall of Fame in 2010. What is so uniquely keen about this project is it marks her debut as a songwriter, partnered with a pillar of the Portland jazz community Ellen Vanderslice; (though an architect by trade) she is an accomplished and prolific composer as well. The two are united with fellow songwriter, vibraphonist and pianist Mike Horsfall for a delightfully engaging offering entitled Moonshadow Dance.

The album traverses from romance to heartbreak to full of fun, and lyrically hints to her great pal Dave Frishberg, none is a better example than the sardonic “I Live in a Condo,” filled with swinging precision and instantaneous chuckle, penned by Horfsall it’s a delightful way to open the disc and set the mood. A rumba version and Kilgore’s original “Birthday Song, Generic” further endeavors the easy going, breezy feeling. What an injection of joy this album can bring to any day of the week, but don’t let the seemingly deceiving easy going vibe fool you, the musicians are top-shelf and the songs are so standard similar, you almost have to pinch yourself to remember you are listening to originals.

A highlight for me was “Aeolian Shade” a harmonically dark tune, gave me a chance to hear Kilgore represent a smoky timber of her voice. Penned by Vanderslice and Horfsall, Kilgore effortlessly shines; she is introspective and poignant and dips down deep in her range and floats effortlessly atop the accompaniment. Other highlights include and passionate “I’m Not Susceptible to You,” an up-tempo Latin take on “Cantando o Amor,” be sure to note there is also a reprise version of this track which is scaled down to voice and guitar with Marco de Carvalho at the helm of nylon strung guitar. This is particularly delightful, as you can hear each intent of the notes sung by Kilgore and played by de Carvalho. Moonshadow Dance does not disappoint, Kilgore continues to show why she is such a consummate jazz vocalist, her swing is effervescent, her tone of voice is timeless and she is an effortless technician. Truly another highlight to add to your collection, highly recommended.

DARIA Strawberry Fields Forever - Songs By The Beatles

Album · 2016 · Vocal Jazz
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js
A jazz tribute to the Beatles is not unusual, there are many out there, but what is more selective is a tribute that tries to re-shape the Beatles’ original music, and does so successfully, and that is what we have in Daria’s creative re-structuring of the ‘fab four’ on her new album, “Strawbwrry Fields Forever (Songs by the Beatles)”. Daria and her crew of San Francisco jazz artists take on several Lennon-McCartney classics, and do so fearlessly as they dare to re-harmonize some of pop culture’s most treasured melodies. It’s a bold move, but it pays off as this CD is much more interesting than yet another more faithful ’by-the-numbers’ rendition. You’ll easily recognize every tune on here, but as the songs unfold, you will be intrigued by changes in harmony, melodic line, and rhythm. It’s the changes in rhythm on ‘Strawberry’ that may be the album’s most striking feature, as the Beatles’ original pop/rock beats are replaced with syncopated rhythms from Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica and New Orleans.

An interesting thing happens when you transform the music to a well known Beatles song, once the background becomes less familiar, the lyrics come shining through in a new way and you are reminded that these guys not only wrote good tunes, but they were often very capable modern poets as well. You may not think “Come Together” can work as a samba, but the new rhythms isolate Lennon’s flow of consciousness nonsense lyrics and takes them to new heights (of silliness?). Some other highlights include a horn driven New Orleans funk version of “Helter Skelter”, and a nu-jazzy psychedelic version of title track “Strawberry Fields”.

Production and arrangement on “Strawberry Fields Forever” is excellent and they keep things interesting by varying the ensembles from piano quartet, to Steely Dan styled mini-big band, Afro-Cuban ensemble or other variations. Many guest musicians offer a variety of horns, guitars, keyboards and percussion. Daria is an excellent singer and her treatment of these well known classics is thoughtful and delivered with insight

MARY FOSTER CONKLIN Photographs

Album · 2016 · Vocal Jazz
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js
With so many female jazz vocalists performing these days how can an artist stand out? While other instrumentalists may use pyrotechnics to impress, this is not always a wise route for vocalists where extreme performance can be more annoying than endearing. On her new album, “Photographs”, Mary Foster Conklin wisely avoids any attempt to grandstand with her voice, but instead pulls you in with her ability to convey a story as she presents an interesting and complex personality that you want to hear more from. Some compare Conklin’s sense of story to cabaret, and there is some truth to that, but she has more in common with story oriented folk-jazz artists like Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon than old school cabaret.

It helps that care was taken to give each song its own sound. There is a core rhythm section on most tracks, but many songs also feature additional instrumentalists, on sax, muted cornet or guitar, who intertwine with Conklin’s voice. The song selection is also superb with very few overplayed selections. Five tracks feature the lyrics of beat poet Fran Landesman, while other tracks feature writers like Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell and Oscar Brown Jr. “Photographs” will grow on you, and that’s mostly because of Mary’s personality. She is a master of conveying world-weary bitter sweet emotions, tempered with an odd unlikely sense of optimism.

DEBORAH SHULMAN My Heart's in the Wind

Album · 2007 · Vocal Jazz
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It takes a lot of courage for a vocalist to record an album of all ballads, no other song form puts a vocalist’s skills on the line like a slow moving test of one’s ability to not only develop a melodic line, but to do so with a convincing emotional tone. On “My Heart’s in the Wind”, Deborah Shulman doesn’t shy away from this challenge and delivers a successful collection of mostly quiet and introspective vocal reflections. Only two numbers on here hit any kind of toe-tapping tempo, all the rest are delivered in a vocalist-centered legato rubato with an intuitive laid back combo backing every word. Shulman’s main accompanists on here are Larry Koonse on guitar and Terry Trotter on piano, both of whom support her with imagination and sensitivity. The way the two instrumentalists interact with each other is joyfully loose and even somewhat cluttered in a good way. Its nice the two are not overly polite and sterile in their interactions. Both musicians also deliver a couple of clever solos as well.

Much of Shulman’s emotional conviction comes across in these songs because she hand picked each one as a personal reflection of not only her own life, but also the lives and love of her departed parents. Tracks such as “Loving You” and “You are There” are tributes to her parent’s relationship and the memories of Shulman’s family life. The non-pretentious tone of this album is furthered by the fact that every track was recorded live without a trace of studio trickery. Summit Records in general should be praised for their ongoing commitment to production values that put an artist’s personal skills over studio gimmicks.

The material covered on here is well considered and devoid of anything overplayed. The 'Great American Songbook', Broadway and movies are all sources for Schulman's selections, with a few surprises included, such as "This Hotel", from the film, "Hotel". Top track may be the infectious "Sleepin Bee". This is a great vocal album that sets a mood for those long winter nights that surround us during this time of year.

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JONI MITCHELL Shadows And Light

Movie · 1980 · Vocal Jazz
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Slartibartfast
Joni Mitchell meets The Pat Metheny Group.

What can I say? This was my real introduction into the music of Joni and what a place to start! She had really entered a new phase and the tracks offered span from Court And Spark up to Mingus (and of course, the song Shadows And Light, exclusive to the live album).

The concert was an outdoors affair at the Santa Barbara County Bowl. The liner notes say that "this concert catches Joni at the height of her artistic excellence." Having explored her albums after and before this era, I can wholeheartedly agree with that. Jaco Pastorius, who had a reputation at that point of being erratic in live situations, seems to be in a good mode. The camera work is good and the concert is now available on DVD with 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio all of which make for a show worthy of revisiting from time to time.

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