If the voice is the first instrument, even before the drum, it is also the most personal and adaptable one. In this Vocals Issue, we cover a wide range of practitioners, from those who have long been departed to those in the midst of carving out their niche in the pantheon.
Dinah Washington (On The Cover) died almost 56 years ago but her presence is still felt in today's bluesier singers. She joins her fellow female singers Betty Carter, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Bessie Smith and Sarah Vaughan as the latest member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame and will be celebrated at Dizzy's Club. Allan Harris (Interview) is both a compelling performer in his own right and a masterful interpreter of two very different legends: Eddie Jefferson and Nat "King" Cole. He celebrates both at Dizzy's Club. While Veronica Swift (Artist Feature) will soon release her major-label debut, the 20-something singer has been at it for almost her whole life. She appears at Birdland and 92nd Street Y's "Jazz in July". Lorraine Feather (Encore) and Mark Murphy (Lest We Forget) represent the best that jazz singing lyricists have to offer. And check out our vocals-focused CD Review section (pgs. 14-16) for an overview of singers past and present.
On the Cover: DINAH WASHINGTON
By George Kanzler; photos by Herman Leonard and from '50s promotional headshot
"I can sing anything, anything at all" is Dinah Washington's most repeated quote, an epigraph for almost every piece written about the singer, who died in December 1963...Washington was one of three black women, along with Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, who dominated the jazz vocal landscape in the '50s. A tribute to Washington with Evan Sherman Big Band with guest Joy Brown is at Dizzy's Club Jul. 16th as part of the 2019 Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame inductions.
Interview: ALLAN HARRIS
By Jim Motavalli; photo by Sandrine Lee (courtesy of the artist)
Allan Harris is the consummate jazz singer with a wide-angle view, as well known in, say, Istanbul or Moscow, as he is in the United States. He's a regular with jazz orchestras all over Europe. Though perhaps most celebrated for his dedication to and vocal interpretation of Tin Pan Alley, the Brooklyn-born Harris also plays guitar and is a composer of note. His musical, Cross That River: A Tale of the Black West, draws from his own experience working on a family ranch and explores a little-known chapter in American history, that of the African-American cowboy. Harris' most recent album, The Genius of Eddie Jefferson (Resilience) pays tribute to an influence, the man who paved the way for vocalese and wrote lyrics to many of jazz' most enduring solos. Harris recently returned from Chicago, where he was challenged to wrap his creamy baritone voice around a big-band set recreating Jefferson's 1962 album Letter From Home. Harris is at Dizzy's Club Jul. 9th.
Artist Feature: VERONICA SWIFT
By Marilyn Lester; photo by Raj Naik (courtesy of Mack Avenue)
Child prodigies—defined as a person under the age of ten who produces meaningful output at an adult level—come along in one out of 10 million or so births. Jazz singer Veronica Swift qualifies. At nine she recorded her debut album...Swift has just turned 25 and has already had a full and important career to which other performers would aspire. Swift is at Birdland Jul. 2nd-6th and Jul. 15th with Benny Benack and 92nd Street Y's "Jazz in July" Jul. 23rd.
Encore: LORRAINE FEATHER
By Ken Dryden
A native of New York City, Lorraine Feather is the daughter of jazz journalist Leonard Feather and his wife Jane, who sang professionally. Although a music career seemed predestined, her parents did not push her towards performing. On her own she developed into an expressive vocalist and inspired lyricist who has earned several Grammy and Emmy nominations writing for her own CDs or other artists, in addition to film and television.
Lest We Forget: MARK MURPHY
By Scott Yanow
Mark Murphy was arguably the most innovative male jazz singer of the past 50 years. His roots were in bebop but he extended the music in his own unique way. His improvisations, which often found him jumping between eccentric-sounding falsetto to deep bass notes, were unpredictable yet he often displayed real sensitivity on ballads. A tribute to Murphy with Nancy Kelly is at Birdland Theater Jul. 4th-6th.
Record Label Spotlight: RELAY RECORDINGS
By Eric Wendell
Tim Daisy is the quintessential musical multi-hyphenate, dutifully wearing the hats of drummer, composer, improviser and bandleader. In 2011, he added record company founder when he established Relay Recordings. Daisy is at 244 Rehearsal Studios Jul. 24th.
(this month's performance venues in parentheses):
Champian Fulton/Scott Hamilton—The Things We Did Last Summer Blau (Damrosch Park)
Nancy Kelly—Remembering Mark Murphy SubCat (Birdland)
Ryan Keberle & Catharsis—The Hope I Hold Greenleaf Music (Jazz Standard)
Betty Carter—The Music Never Stops Blue Engine
Karin Krog—The Many Faces of Karin Krog (Recordings 1967-2017) Odin
Etta Jones—A Soulful Sunday (Live at the Left Bank) Reel to Real
Ella Fitzgerald—Ella at The Shrine Verve
Mopcut—Accelerated Frames of Reference Trost
I Am Three & Me—Mingus' Sound of Love (with Maggie Nicols) Leo
Sungjae Son—Near East Quartet ECM
Alfred Panou and the Art Ensemble of Chicago—Je suis un sauvage / Le moral nécessaire Saravah-Souffle Continu
Giacomo Gates—G8s 9th Note
Joshua Abrams Natural Information Society—Mandatory Reality Eremite (Roulette)
Yoko Miwa—Keep Talkin' Ocean Blue Tear Music (Birdland Theater)
David Torn/Tim Berne/Ches Smith—Sun of Goldfinger ECM (The Sultan Room)
Tuomo Uusitalo—Stories from Here and There Fresh Sound-New Talent (Smalls)
George Cables—I'm All Smiles HighNote (Smoke)
Ivo Perelman/Rudi Mahall—Kindred Spirits Leo (Happylucky no.1)
Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley—String 3 Leo (Happylucky no.1)
Elliott Sharp/Álvaro Domene/Mike Caratti—Expressed by the Circumference Iluso (Brooklyn Bazaar)