THE ART OF ‘VOCALESE’ — FAMOUS JAZZ SOLOS & COMPOSITIONS AS SUNG BY ANNIE ROSS & CO.

A video preface, newly discovered at YT:

Before you read this, I’d suggest you listen to a musical preface by Louis Armstrong (1935) & Charlie Parker (1949) and their beautiful renditions of Dorothy Fields’ and Jimmy McHugh’s I’m In The Mood For Love (see playlist on bottom).

The following article is dedicated to my very good friend Doug Ramsey from Rifftides, whose excellent recommendations have lead me to some jazz recordings I have never heard before. — Among them was James Moody’s ingenious alto sax solo on I’m In The Mood For Love he has recorded with his Swedish Crowns in 1949.

Well, I had that very solo in my collection of LP’s already, but it was located in the vocal department. — Alas, I have to admit that I rarely listened to this very twofer, containing almost the entire recorded output of King Pleasure from 1952 to 1960. Jon Hendricks wrote very personal, and insightful liners.

King Pleasure’s other vocalized jazz solos include Bird’s famous Parker’s Mood from 1948, Lester Young’s Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid (1947), Lionel Hampton’s boppin’ Red Top (1947), and the before mentioned Moody’s Mood For Love which he did – certainly with pleasure😉 – together with Blossom Dearie in 1952, even before he got into Parker’s Mood in 1953.

Composer/arranger Ralph Burns’ Bijou (Woody Herman & His Orchestra, 1945) with Bill Harris’ evocative-dreamy, later shouting trombone solo virtually demanded lyrics which have been eventually provided by Jon Hendricks whose vocal group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross has set the standard for the art of vocalese, for vocal groups like The Swingle Singers, The Manhattan Transfer, or The Double Six Of Paris. — Jon’s adored girl Bijou became an exotic table dancer in a café in Istanbul.

Annie Ross was obviously torn between her British origin and her love to the American way of life and jazz. The boppish tenor sax of Wardell Gray (backed by Bird’s men Al Haig, Tommy Potter & Roy Haynes on November 11, 1949), his naturally swinging solo on the original blues Twisted seemed to have spoken directly to her heart and soul.

Annie’s extremely funny lyrics tell the story of her childhood which was apparently stamped by the for adults typical misinterpretations of her actions when she was a little girl.

She could top her own initial version from 1952 with a later remake in stereo, flanked by witty remarks of Jon Hendricks and Dave Lambert (1960).

This gives me the opportunity to bring not only Wardell’s master take to your ears, but also the widely unknown alternate take of Twisted. (Sorry for the scratches on this one.)

Sammy Fain’s and Irving Kahal’s I’ll Be Seeing You with its haunting lyrics have mostly inspired (jazz) singers like Billie Holiday, Jo Stafford, Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby to do their immortal renditions. The jazz quality of the song wasn’t recognized by many instrumentalists. I could only find versions of Dave McKenna, Cal Collins with Herb Ellis, and Sonny Rollins, who has recorded it for one of his obscurer albums, his last for RCA, entitled The Standard Sonny Rollins (1964).

But honestly, as a serious jazz improvisor, who would dare to record this very song after he heard trumpeter Tony Fruscella’s perfect, from the beginning to the end easily flowing, seemingly effortless lines, pouring out of the bell of his horn? Let alone Bill Triglia’s congenial piano accompaniment! — Even Chet Baker may have blushed in humbleness when Tony’s only studio LP came out in 1955.

Now, how come that bassist Red Mitchell (he plays on the original date) has never officially recorded his vocalized version of this very improvisation? I don’t know. What I know, is, that no one else than my college professor, trombonist Jiggs Whigham himself, has presented me a cassette with some kind personal remarks, but for my ears only. The faintly perfumed tape contained just this very track. I still have it, and it belongs definitely to my desert island picks.

Proof😉

Red’s reflective lyrics are not only telling Tony’s life story, his beginnings when he started to practice his horn in B-flat, and as he asked himself “Why all of a sudden everything goes to hell?” – which was hinting to Tony’s lifelong addiction to heroin -, Red also (through Tony’s breathy sound) gives us hope and relief when he closes with the words: “If you get the blues I’ll play them away.” (When I find the time, I will provide a transcription of Red’s lyrics.)

I wholeheartedly second Red’s recommendation: “When you’re through, listening to this, change the balance to only trumpet.” (or just skip backwards to Tony’s original); because “music speaks louder than words”.

P.S. — I have added King Pleasure’s stereo remakes of Moody’s Mood For Love and Parker’s Mood from 1960. Harold Land can be heard on tenor there.

Playlist — THE ART OF VOCALESE

Blog owner’s extro: — Although I personally go for vinyl recordings (all tracks are transferred from my own LP-collection) I would recommend the following CD’s —

Louis Armstrong’s Complete DECCA Sessions

Charlie Parker’s Verve Master Takes

Woody Herman & His Orchestra – The Complete Columbia Recordings

Lambert, Hendricks & Ross – The Hottest New Group In Jazz

Wardell Gray Memorial – Vol. 1

The Bebop Singers

Bird’s Complete Savoy Recordings

James Moody & His Swedish Crowns

King Pleasure 1960

Jo Stafford / G.I. Jo – Songs of WW II

Tony Fruscella with Phil Sunkel & Bill Triglia

Let’s sexy Annie have the last word here. The Count himself is at the piano, Freddie Green on guitar, Eddie Jones on bass & Sonny Payne on drums. Singer Tony Bennett can be spotted among the illustrious guests.

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