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Bebop Spoken There

Les Paul: "Okay so you make great sounds. The people you're playing for, they work all day, they don't go to music schools and study harmony. They pay their dough, they come in, they listen. If they don't understand what you're doing, they walk out. What are you supposed to do, tie 'em with a rope whilst you explain you're playing great music?" - (Down Beat June 15, 1951).

Jack Perciful: "Unless you're playing somewhere like Carnegie Hall, in the States, the piano is the last thing they buy. When they've got ten dollars left over they go buy a piano." - (Crescendo October 1971.)

Number 22!

Bebop Spoken Here is currently listed at number 22 in the WORLD JAZZ BLOG Rankings!

Sunday May 28

Afternoon.
Harambee Pasadia - See RH Column.
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Mark Williams (solo guitar) - Cherry Tree Restaurant, 9 Osborne Rd., Jesmond, Newcastle. 12:30pm. Free.
Vieux Carré Jazzmen - Northumberland Park, Tynemouth Rd., Tynemouth NE30 2HA. 3pm. Free.
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Blues @ The Bay - Tanner Smith's 17-19 South Parade, Whitley Bay NE26 2RE, 0191 2525941. 4pm. Free. Blues jam w. Scott Wall & Charlie Philp.
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Musicians Unlimited - Park Hotel, Park Rd., Hartlepool TS26 9HU. 01249 233126.1pm. Free.
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Evening
Cancelled! Young Musicians Jam Session - Quakerhouse, Mechanics' Yard, Darlington DL3 7QF. 6pm. Cancelled!
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Billy Bootleggers All Star House Band w. Teresa Watson - Billy Bootleggers - 28 Nelson St., Newcastle NE1 5AN. 9pm. Free.
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To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

JAZZ SINGING EASY - NO WAY!


Picture this – you go to a jazz gig and a singer gets behind the mike and coolly sings one of the jazz standards.  You think, ‘quite good’, I could do that, after all, I learnt most of those songs at my mother’s knee!
And that, dear blog readers, was what I thought, until I tried it.
The first shock I got was to find that I didn’t actually know the words or tune, at least not precisely enough to sing with a band.  We hear these songs every day on the radio but don’t notice the fine details until we see the music.  And before you can improvise you must know the ‘correct’ version.  For instance, try singing a line like ‘regretting instead of forgetting with somebody else’ (Love Me or Leave Me), at speed, with all the right notes, without your tongue falling out.
I’d been used to singing traditional folk songs in folk clubs for many years before deciding to learn jazz singing as well.  The main difference is that I sang unaccompanied, so didn’t have to consider the needs of musicians.  Bands tend to want to know which key you’re singing in (it helps!) and the speed of your song.  I hadn’t had to consider this before, I simply opened my mouth and interpreted the song, within my vocal range.
So I’m still learning the etiquette of how to consult with a band.  Which player do you consult, the keyboard?  Probably not the drummer.  How do you negotiate the instrumentals, do they already have a favoured arrangement?  Can you interfere with that?  I love the sound of saxophones, can I request a solo from the sax?  This is all before I’ve broken into song, and I have to remember that a chorus is the whole song, and not what it means in a folk song.
I hadn’t used a microphone much before, which is a skill in itself.  I had to get used to holding the mike close enough to be heard, and remember not to turn my head away, which defeats the whole point of the exercise.  I had to remember not to stroke the mike, as all the audience would hear would be crackles.  I’ve yet to try the intimate style of singing with the mike very close up.  Will this sound sexy or just plain silly?  I suspect the latter in my case.  I’m short of stature so all mikes are set too high for me – adjustments needed.
At last I’m ready to begin, if I’ve checked with the band when to actually start - after 8 bars, 1 chorus, or whatever. When the song goes well it’s like sitting in an armchair being relaxed yet alert.  I’ll not go into what it’s like when it’s not so good, it would be too much information.  Most songs deserve to be sung well as there’s some wonderful material out there.  What about the songs of Cole Porter, such as the wisdom of It’s Alright With Me, or the humour of I Get a Kick out of You, or the images in You’re The Top?  Such simple language is used to express complex ideas, so that everyone can enjoy the songs.  And whilst singing you have the band to listen to, in fact it’s essential to listen otherwise you’re in deep trouble.  Make sure you shut up for their instrumental bits, enjoy their improvisations, and your own.  And it helps if you both finish at the same time!
It just remains for you to thank the right people and receive applause graciously.  So I’d like to end this piece by thanking my friends in the Bluejazz Voices and the group leader Lindsay Hannon, where I’ve been learning all this, and also the Bluejazz Quintet, ‘our’ band, at the Sage. And also Lance and Russell of Bebop Spoken Here and Jazz North East for their encouragement.  They encouraged me, so if I sing badly, it’s those two to blame. (Only joking!)
Ann Alexander.

3 comments :

  1. Ann, I thought you were great. Keep at it. (says the guy with the big guitar)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am so definitely going to try this. Safety with numbers in a choir? Or let it all out solo (being Judy Garland in my head).

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello Blue, Thanks for your kind comments. Keep on playing the big guitar that stands up!

    Sarah, good for you, I may see you at the Jazz singing. Ann

    ReplyDelete

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About this blog - contact details.

Bebop Spoken Here -- Here, being the north-east of England -- centred in the blues heartland of Newcastle and reaching down to the Tees Delta and looking upwards to the Land of the Kilt.
Not a very original title, I know; not even an accurate one as my taste, whilst centred around the music of Bird and Diz, extends in many directions and I listen to everything from King Oliver to Chick Corea and beyond. Not forgetting the Great American Songbook the contents of which has provided the inspiration for much great jazz and quality popular singing for round about a century.
The idea of this blog is for you to share your thoughts and pass on your comments on discs, gigs, jazz - music in general. If you've been to a gig/concert or heard a CD that knocked you sideways please share your views with us. Tell us about your favourites, your memories, your dislikes.
Lance (Who wishes it to be known that he is not responsible for postings other than his own and that he's not always responsible for them.)
Contact: lanceliddle@gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you.

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