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.

vocal jazz top albums

Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm | 24 hours caching

ROBERTA FLACK First Take Album Cover First Take
ROBERTA FLACK
4.93 | 3 ratings
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FRANK SINATRA Watertown Album Cover Watertown
FRANK SINATRA
4.69 | 6 ratings
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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
4.58 | 8 ratings
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BOBBY MCFERRIN The Voice Album Cover The Voice
BOBBY MCFERRIN
4.75 | 2 ratings
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FRANK SINATRA It Might As Well Be Swing Album Cover It Might As Well Be Swing
FRANK SINATRA
4.63 | 3 ratings
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FRANK SINATRA My Way Album Cover My Way
FRANK SINATRA
4.50 | 6 ratings
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FRANK SINATRA A Swingin' Affair! Album Cover A Swingin' Affair!
FRANK SINATRA
4.53 | 4 ratings
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JONI MITCHELL Mingus Album Cover Mingus
JONI MITCHELL
4.50 | 4 ratings
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FRANK SINATRA Come Fly With Me Album Cover Come Fly With Me
FRANK SINATRA
4.44 | 6 ratings
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FRANK SINATRA Come Swing With Me! Album Cover Come Swing With Me!
FRANK SINATRA
4.47 | 4 ratings
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NORAH JONES Come Away With Me Album Cover Come Away With Me
NORAH JONES
4.40 | 6 ratings
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REBEKKA BAKKEN I Keep My Cool Album Cover I Keep My Cool
REBEKKA BAKKEN
4.46 | 3 ratings
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From Here
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You Showed Me The Way
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Freedom Jazz Dance
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Lotta Livin
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The Rules Don't Apply
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Come Fly With Me
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At PizzaExpress Live - In London
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vocal jazz Music Reviews

SANNA RUOHONIEMI Let Everything Happen

Album · 2024 · Vocal Jazz
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Matti P
This is the third and latest album of the fairly young Finnish vocalist and composer SANNA RUOHONIEMI. She grew up in the countryside of Finnish Ostrobothnia and nowadays lives in Stockholm. That's where the album was recorded as well, the accompanying musicians being Fredrik Lindborg (saxophone, bass clarinet), Daniel Tilling (piano), Lars Ekman (double bass) and Daniel Olsson (drums). Lyrics feature also Finnish and Swedish in addition to dominating English. Her compositions are modern jazz with ingredients from Nordic ethnic music, bebop and tango.

The opening title track is rather an introspective and moody song in slow tempo. The elegant arrangement favours piano and hi-hat plus some bass clarinet, but the focus is on the girlish and sensual voice of Ruohoniemi. 'Helsinki mun' (= My Helsinki) is her Finnish-language adaptation of Monica Zetterlund's Stockholm-inspired 'Sakta vi gå genom stan'. The combo plays excellently together and there's a suitable amount of emotion.

'Jag vet en dejlig rosa' is a slow piece, and if I'm not mistaken, of traditional origins. The playing flows in a melancholic, wandering manner. 'Dance of Life' has a pretty traditional vocal jazz sound, reminding me of 'Is You Or Is You Ain't My Baby'. A lengthy saxophone solo is followed by a bass solo.

'Slavic Heart' is a vividly pouring, melodic composition. 'Tango Variaté' is basically an instrumental with wordless chanting, perhaps my favourite piece, and definitely the most dynamic in its alteration between calmness and more energetic moments. Another highlight is the closing song 'No One's Coming' for its strong, introspective mood.

A recommendable album for those wishing to find stylistically eclectic Nordic vocal jazz with female vocalists, alongside artists such as Viktoria Tolstoy, Ira Kaspi, Jeanette Lindström, Lisa Ekdahl and Sidsel Endresen. However, Ruohoniemi's slightly naiive vocal expression takes a half star away from my four stars for not exactly being up to my personal taste.

IRA KASPI You And The Night And The Music

Album · 2012 · Vocal Jazz
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Matti P
This is the seventh album by the Finnish jazz vocalist IRA KASPI (b. 1964). Seemingly, surprisingly, it's still her latest. On her earlier albums she's more or less oriented towards new compositions made for her (sometimes also co-written by her), but this one's dedicated to international classics -- although not entirely. The musicians in "Jazz Diva Band" are pianist Mikael Jakobsson, Jussi Kannaste on tenor sax, Ape Anttila on guitar, bass and percussion and Markku Ounaskari on drums. "With Strings" refers to the Lohja Town Orchestra led by Esa Heikkilä.

On her debut album Inner Voices (2001) I sensed a little Suzanne Vega in her voice. I liked that, but I don't deny her expression has matured in eleven years.

Kaspi herself was especially pleased by the beautiful orchestration on the opening song 'Don't Go to Strangers'and I fully agree, it is gorgeous in its romantic feel. An obvious highlight. The title track where the arrangement focuses on the band has a nice atmosphere that makes you forget that the piece is so often covered. Slightly melancholic 'How Do You Keep Up the Light' was written by Kaspi and Anttila but it fits in harmonically among the standards.

I've heard great interpretations of 'Someday My Prince Will Come', by e.g. Cassandra Wilson, and IMHO this relatively lighthearted version loses the needed romantic aspect. 'The Gentle Rain' was composed by Luiz Bonfa and originally (?) performed by Astrud Gilberto whose soft expression I prefer. The orchestration is nice, though. 'Call Me Irresponsible' emphasizes the band, especially the sax.

'The Good Life' immediately makes me think of Tony Bennett. Kaspi's version also has romanticism in the delicate arrangement, making this one of the better tracks. After two further standards the album closes with another Kaspi-Anttila composition 'The Best Is Yet to Be Coming'. It is surprisingly uptempo and groovy, but apart from a cool piano solo it's not among my faves here.

All in all, I think years back I liked Kaspi's aforementioned debut over this one. I would have wanted more of the lush orchestrations that are at their finest in the opening piece, and the set feels slightly worn-out and unoriginal. Worth three stars anyway.

WILLIAM PARKER The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield: Live in Rome

Live album · 2007 · Vocal Jazz
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snobb
Fans of a legendary jazz bassist William Parker know that he has a long lasting collaboration history with singers on some his projects and Texas-born Leena Conquest is one of his most regular vocalist. Still, Parker's "The Inside Songs Of Curtis Mayfield" project is quite unusual since his all-star combo plays a soul star Curtis Mayfield songs here.

Recorded in Rome, Italy during 2004 New York IS Now! Festival and released by Rai Trade, a publishing division of national public broadcasting company of Italy three years later, "The Inside Songs Of Curtis Mayfield - Live In Rome" is a real rarity. Parker leads the band, containing his regular drummer Hamid Drake, pianist Dave Burrell, capable reeds section of Sabir Mateen, Darryl Foster and Lewis Barnes, plus renown in 70s poet and voice artist Amiri Baraka on support of singer Leena Conquest. Music itself is a bit quirky mix of straight-forward r'n'b with Leena vocals, with rich brass arrangements, plenty of Amiri Baraka politically sharp recitatives and free jazz sax soling over it. Most probably, Curtis Mayfield songs never sounded this way.

Recording sound is clear, but the mix is odd, most probably taken from initial video recording. Vocals are on the very front, with drums sounding extremely flat with loud brass arrangements beside. Leena Conquest singing is OK, but Baraka's participation is a bit out of place - in a first decade of New Millennium his lyrics sounds really dated. The editing could be better as well - in all the release sound as average quality bootleg from the era.

Being a rarity, this album is mostly a collectors' item. There is another, not so rare album, recorded by same Parker's project and containing similar material, recorded by almost the same band on US and European tours, "I Plan To Stay A Believer: The Inside Songs Of Curtis Mayfield", released in US by AUM Fidelity.

DARDEN PURCELL Love's Got Me in a Lazy Mood

Album · 2023 · Vocal Jazz
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Carmel
Darden Purcell's album, “Love's Got Me In A Lazy Mood,” unfolds as a project that is a meticulous assembly of jazz artistry. The eleven tracks finely exhibit Purcell's mastery as a vocalist and the collaborative spirit that jazz embodies. With arrangements and an original by Shawn Purcell, they present a vocal jazz set that reflects jazz's past elegance while carving out a contemporary program in sound and texture.

“Love's Got Me In A Lazy Mood” is an album that captures the essence of vocal jazz's power as Darden's vocal contributions bring strong melody singing and her ability to use her voice as an instrument. Darden's agile voice serves as the guiding light through this journey, with a warm and commanding tone. Her ability to navigate the complexities of jazz singing, from the blues-infused narratives to the lyrical delicacies of the Great American Songbook, is delightful. Her interpretations of the melodies are grounded in the lineage of jazz, with a strong West Coast vibe, but all with a keen ear for precise jazz rhythms and articulations.

The album starts with "Willow Weep for Me," where Shawn's cleaver arrangement immediately sets a tone of rhythmic exploration. Joe Locke's vibraphone and Shawn's guitar both add texture and energy to the music, which is lyrical and forward-moving. Darden's vocal delivery on this track demonstrates her unique and organic jazz phrasing and emotive storytelling of the lyrics, capturing the listener's imagination and setting the stage for the album's narrative arc. In "Love's Got Me in a Lazy Mood," we are treated to Darden's vocal versatility as she imbues the song with a sense of effortless grace, while navigating its angular intervals with a deep understanding of jazz's expressive jargon.

The rendition of "A Cottage for Sale" is a moment to enjoy Darden's grace as a balladeer. Her breath control and emotive accents add to the song's narrative essence and melodic flow. The arrangement supports her every step, allowing the listener to fully immerse themselves in the storytelling as the harmonic support from Shawn's and Todd Simon's piano cradle every nuance.

"Estrada Branca (This Happy Madness)" stands out with Purcell's fluency in the Latin jazz genre. Her vocal agility, combined with the Brazilian groove laid down by Jeff Reed's bass and Todd Harrison's drums, creates an enchanting musical moment. The bilingual delivery adds layers of texture and depth, further showing Purcell's extraordinary range and sensitivity.

"Chatterbox," an original composition by Shawn with lyrics written by Darden, is a perfect balance of Darden acting as an instrumentalist and vocalist. The style of this vocalese has its spirit in the hard-bop tradition. Here, Darden's lyrical ingenuity shines, supported by the ability to sing these bop lines with a compelling 'horn-like' approach with clear diction, which is excellent. The track is a vibrant celebration of jazz's enduring vitality, with each musician bringing their unique voice to the collective conversation.

"Taking a Chance on Love" encapsulates the album's essence, blending the historical with the contemporary. The arrangement's nod to the iconic styles of George Shearing and Marty Paich, combined with Purcell's playful and sophisticated vocal interpretation, serves as a fitting culmination to this musical odyssey.

“Love's Got Me In A Lazy Mood” has a balance of vocal jazz tradition and innovative exploration, highlighting the evolving role of a vocalist within the genre. Darden Purcell's exceptional vocal artistry, combined with a symbiotic relationship with her ensemble, weaves a compelling narrative that honors and expands vocal jazz's boundaries. Through inventive arrangements and a carefully curated selection of songs, the album invites listeners to delve into vocal jazz's many textures and complexities, seamlessly integrating past and contemporary elements. “Love's Got Me In A Lazy Mood” propels the conversation of the role of a jazz vocalist, ensuring its relevance and vitality in the jazz canon.

TONY BENNETT Duets II

Album · 2011 · Vocal Jazz
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Matti P
Tony Bennett (August 3, 1926 – July 21, 2023) made an impressively long career of high quality. He is, in my opinion, the only major male vocalist in the entertainment category to rival Frank Sinatra in importance. Sad to say he hasn't been reviewed here before. My choice is his decond "Duets" album. In his later years he was keen on performing together with well-known contemporary artists. In addition to the albums with a wide selection of duet partners on a song by song basis, he made whole duet-oriented albums with k. d. lang, Lady Gaga and Diana Krall. Undoubtedly Amy Winehouse, featured on this set, would have been on his Wanted list, but she died in 2011.

This is the second Tony Bennett duet album I've listened to completely, the first one being Love Is Here to Stay (2018) with Diana Krall, which I quickly ran through some time earlier and didn't like at all. I do appreciate Krall highly, too, but their mutual album had such a worn-out set of George Gershwin standards (e.g. 'Nice Work if You Can Get It', 'I Got Rhythm', 'They Can't Take That Away from Me' and so on) performed in an old-fashioned, light-hearted way.

Therefor I was all the more happily surprised to realize I had a pretty good time with Duets II. Undoubtedly the biggest kudos goes to the producer maestro Phil Ramone -- who passed away in 2013. The production of each well chosen song is perfectly tailored for the singers with various backgrounds and styles, and also the cast itself is delicious in its variety: from other elder legends such as Aretha Franklin and Willie Nelson to the fairly young popular artists such as Lady Gaga, Michael Bublé, Cheryl Crow or Norah Jones.

Tony Bennett himself was indeed an ideal duet partner, always capable of creating a warm and happy atmosphere with whoever he was singing with. 'One for My Baby' feat. John Mayer suitably resembles a spontaneous bar stool dialogue. One of my faves is 'Blue Velvet' featuring the fantastic deep sensualism of k.d. lang. 'Stranger in Paradise' features Andrea Bocelli whose passionate, operatic approach suits the song.

This 63-minute set is definitely representing the cream of Various Artists oriented duet albums, and an excellent work from a legendary artist in the age of 85. R.I.P., Tony Bennett.

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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.

Artists with Vocal Jazz release(s)

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