I wanted to take a moment today to highlight one of the most under-appreciated sub-genres in jazz (in my incredibly biased vocalist opinion).
Vocalese is the art of taking an existing instrumental melody or solo transcription and creating lyrics to go along with it. Some of the greatest performers of vocalese include The Manhattan Transfer, New York Voices, Kurt Elling, Al Jarreau and the ultimate practitioners; (Dave) Lambert, (Jon) Hendricks & (Annie) Ross.
There are an incredible number of fantastic vocalese arrangements out there, including the 1985 album simply titled ‘Vocalese’ by The Manhattan Transfer featuring the aformentioned Jon Hendricks. (Check out the track ‘Airegin’ for one of the most incredible lyrical challenges I’ve ever come across.
New Yorkers are incredibly lucky to have Annie Ross of LH&R performing every Tuesday at the Metropolitan Room. Ross’ 1952 lyrics to ‘Twisted’, originally a Wardell Gray melody, are amongst some of the best to be found and she is still in fine form. Tickets are a paltry $25 (plus two-drink minimum) to see a swinging living legend.
Check out ‘Twisted’ below.