Friday, November 13, 2009

Name-Droppers: Vocalese Edition

Eddie Jefferson

I’m sure most of you have heard my news. If not, head on over to my blog, Oliver di Place for that, and then rejoin us here. I’m sure I will have my good and bad days for a while, but tonight I feel up to posting. And I had this one planned before everything happened. Without further ado...

Vocalese. Don’t feel bad if you don’t recognize the word. Neither does my spell check program. Still, it is a real word. Vocalese is a technique of jazz singing, where the singer takes a particular version of a tune, and writes lyrics to the melody and the solos in that version.

Eddie Jefferson: Body and Soul


Eddie Jefferson is widely credited as the creator of vocalese. Body and Soul is a jazz standard that became one of Jefferson’s best known songs. The name-drop comes at the very end, when Jefferson credits James Moody as the artist responsible for the version of Body and Soul he used.

Manhattan Transfer: Birdland


After Eddie Jefferson, the next artists to become known for vocalese were Lambert Hendricks and Ross. This trio were active as a group from the 50s into the early 60s. Perhaps their best known song, because of Joni Mitchell’s cover, was Twisted.

Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross remained active separately for many years. Their work as a group inspired many, including Manhattan Transfer. So when Manhattan Transfer decided to turn their attention to vocalese, it was only natural that they would turn to Jon Hendricks for help. Hendricks wrote the lyrics to Birdland for them. Birdland was the legendary jazz club in New York City in the 1950s, and the lyrics mention some of the jazz legends who played there. The song first appeared on the Manhattan Transfer album Extensions, which also includes their version of Body and Soul.

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