Author Topic: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s  (Read 33998 times)

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Elgarian

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #20 on: July 18, 2012, 12:36:26 AM »
Nice topic.  I have very little expertise on the subject, but I went through a bit of a Billie Holliday phase a while back.  My local library has a pretty large jazz selection, and out of curiosity I ripped a couple of her boxsets to itunes.  Extremely glad I did, beautiful stuff...

Can't quibble with that! I have a fair selection of her recordings, but curiously I feel I've yet to become really familiar with them. I've yet, for example, to become completely besotted (in the way that Helen Ward, Annette Hanshaw and Anita O'Day have absorbed me). Speaking of which, I popped Anita into the player recently and here we go again - listening my way through my entire collection. I don't know what it is about her - something do to with her risk-taking, sometimes with every phrase; something to do with the apparent fact that her life only worked when she was actually singing; something about the immense range of mood she could conjure up. Her autobiography is one long sequence of reasons for despair, yet you'd never think so to listen to her or watch her.

I'll post some examples of her performing below, singing to tear-inducing perfection, every part of her engaged in the act, right down to the delicately balanced hand gestures and facial expressions. She often moves her hands as if it's part of the process of sculpturing the music from the air.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/CGgWrv6BKJg" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/CGgWrv6BKJg</a>

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/deUAjVlZXII" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/deUAjVlZXII</a>






Offline Vesteralen

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #21 on: July 18, 2012, 02:19:37 AM »
Nice to be reminded of Anita's unique style. 

Listening to Anita O'Day reminds me of the fact that many jazz vocalists have at least one identifying trait that can enable you to pick them out of a crowd.  I can't quite put into words what her's was, It has something to do with her peculiar enunciation, but it also seems to have something to do with the high preliminary grace notes she often inserts on stressed notes.  Maybe somebody else can define it better.

Sometimes those peculiar traits are endearing, and sometimes they just kind of grate on me.  Her's is more the former than the latter for me.  Sarah Vaughan's low melisma bugs me, for some reason, most of the time.

Another often-overlooked vocalist was Keely Smith.  She has been relegated by a lot of people to a comedy act (with Louis Prima), but on her own she has made several quality record albums, even down till fairly recent times.  She had one trait, though, that got more and more pronounced through the years that somehow bothered me.  Sinatra did this too, occasionally.  But, Keely made a habit of it - promouncing her "i"s as "ah"s.
"Fly Me to the Moon" would become "Flah Me to the Moon", for example.  It's a shame.  I'd play her stuff a lot more if it weren't for that habit that just sets my teeth on edge after a while.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 04:08:25 AM by Vesteralen »

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #22 on: July 18, 2012, 02:21:57 AM »
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/CGgWrv6BKJg" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/CGgWrv6BKJg</a>
Nice! I liked Bewitched a lot, but I prefer Night and Day slower. Stil, a remarkable talent.

I don't know whether anyone else does this much, but sometimes I start listening to the same song sung by different artists (especially on youtubem when you just cick from one to the next). For example, Here is I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby sung in all sorts of ways. Which one do you like?

Ethel Waters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRtOqIU89d4 (starts at 0.45)
Connee Boswell: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZk3fOzKpQ4
Ella Fitzgerald: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJmqOfcqVg0&feature=related or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8va5HjZl1Nw&feature=related(note imitations)
Anita O'Day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AGvuIP9834
June Christy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpCKGAg9T-o
Sarah Vaughan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NA9mxA9B0OQ
Billie Holiday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAR4aEtaH4c (singing Starts at 1.25)
Dorris Day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RF3KaHImHu4
Lena Horne: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUWXLUtiJNo (perhaps some remember this film...)
Peggy Lee: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyyrV3W9tEk
Annette Hanshaw: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufBLTay2cjs (starts around 0.45)
« Last Edit: July 18, 2012, 02:34:50 AM by mc ukrneal »
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Offline Vesteralen

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #23 on: July 18, 2012, 04:31:20 AM »

Ethel Waters (Lena called her "the mother of us all") - I love Ethel. She was a peformer and a comedienne at heart.

Connie Boswell -Beautifully clear voice.

Ella - Inimitable.  What a talent.  Talk about a clear voice.  And, her scatting talent and ability to imitate were unmatched.

Anita O'Day -  Beautiful tone

June Christy -  I've never been a June C fan

Sarah Vaughan -  Nobody could match the richness of her voice, and when she shows a little restraint from all the melisma she's very enjoyable.

Billie Holiday -   Absolutely fabulous. 

Peggy Lee -  Another one of the great swing/jazz vocalists.  Technically phenomenal.

Annette Hanshaw - She's new to me. 
« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 04:11:18 AM by Vesteralen »

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #24 on: July 18, 2012, 05:01:00 AM »
Well, that was a lot of fun.  (Although, toward the end I was having thoughts of "Jeeves and the Song of Songs", when multiple singers performed "Sonny Boy" back-to-back with rather explosive results ;)).

I noticed that only Doris Day turned "bracelets" into "cuff links".  And, that's one problem I had with this song selection.  It was easy to appreciate the different styles of singing, but it was really hard for any of them to sell the song lyrically.  Only Billie Holliday (and maybe Ethel Waters) came close, IMHO.

Anyway, my thoughts:

Ethel Waters (Lena called her "the mother of us all") - I love Ethel. She was a peformer and a comedienne at heart, and you can sense it in this performance.  She and Ella are the only ones who joke-up the song, Ethel doing an anonymous male vocal style, Ella doing Louis Armstrong.  Lots of fun.

Connie Boswell - Connie doesn't joke the song, but she rags it at the end with her patented rhythmic variations.  That's the only thing that saves this from being a straight standards performance and turns it into swing.  Beautifully clear voice, though.

Ella - Inimitable.  What a talent.  Talk about a clear voice.  And, her scatting talent and ability to imitate were unmatched.

Anita O'Day -  Beautiful tone as well, but that stupid male dueter just absolutely ruins this performance.

June Christy -  I've never been a June C fan, but I think this might be my favorite performance from her.

Sarah Vaughan -  Nobody could match the richness of her voice, and when she shows a little restraint from all the melisma, as she does here, she's very enjoyable.

Billie Holiday -   Absolutely fabulous. 

Doris Day -  Nice, and a good typical pre-syrupy song from her, but definitely closer to a straight standard performance than most of the others here.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, thnough, especially with a song like this.

Lena Horne -  Loved parts of it, didn't love other parts as much.  Classy, but I'm not sure this song calls for class.

Peggy Lee -  Another one of the great swing/jazz vocalists.  Technically phenomenal.

Annette Hanshaw - She's new to me.  For a late 20's recording, it's pretty remarkable.  I'm not sure how I feel about it in comparison with some of the others, but on its own merits I'm happy with it.

My favorites for this song:  Billie Holiday, Ella (1957), Ethel Waters, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee.

But, I found things to like about all of them.

I'm anxious to hear other peoples' reactions.
I would agree with many of your comments. Ella is so good at all the different styles - I loved this range in her and you see it here nicely. Billie is great, but I love the whole style they chose here as it just suits this song so well. THis is why I liked the Doris Day version less, though she sings it well, because the style is more modern (and though modern could work, I think the things I like about the song are lost a bit). The second half of Boswell is fantastic. But again, this style just oozes when she sings it (good inflections, phrasing, etc.). Anita chose a simple approach (but the guy annoys me too). Sarah Vaughan adds some nice swing to it. But for me Ethel Waters captures a slice of history that gives me shivers. So I would pick her and Ella as my favorites. Connee Boswell would probably be next. But as you wrote, they all do something attractive.
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Offline Vesteralen

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #25 on: July 18, 2012, 05:28:06 AM »
I love it when Ethel Waters gets some recognition. :)

Elgarian

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #26 on: July 18, 2012, 10:25:27 AM »
I am definitely going to play the excellent game of comparing versions of 'I can't give you anything but love', but first I need to spill something that happened this morning - arrived in the post, in fact, after a long voyage, from a Canadian bookseller.

Helen Forrest (one of the most well-known band singers of the 40s, who sang with Artie Shaw, Harry James and Benny Goodman) published an autobiography in 1982. It's not exactly a rare book, but not exactly a common one either. Signed copies, however, are very rare, and generally out of my financial reach. But, costing about the same as an 'ordinary' copy, here are scans of my recent purchase:

     

I know nothing about Ann and Hal (initially mistaken for Sam, it seems), nor do I know why Helen was 'sorry', but bearing in mind how hard it is to find affordable memorabilia from the period, this will find a special place on my bookshelves.

Afterthought: I think the 'sorry' may be for getting Hal's name wrong, and making a mess crossing out 'Sam'. Ah, Hal and Ann - I wonder where, when, and how you met her?
« Last Edit: July 18, 2012, 10:32:24 AM by Elgarian »

Offline Vesteralen

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #27 on: July 18, 2012, 11:41:57 AM »
I am definitely going to play the excellent game of comparing versions of 'I can't give you anything but love', but first I need to spill something that happened this morning - arrived in the post, in fact, after a long voyage, from a Canadian bookseller.

I know nothing about Ann and Hal (initially mistaken for Sam, it seems), nor do I know why Helen was 'sorry', but bearing in mind how hard it is to find affordable memorabilia from the period, this will find a special place on my bookshelves.


Very nice.  Enjoy!   ;D

Reminds me of my "close encounter" with Louise Brooks through a book.....but, that's another story. 

Elgarian

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #28 on: July 18, 2012, 11:45:01 AM »
Reminds me of my "close encounter" with Louise Brooks through a book.....but, that's another story.

Tell it! We want to know!

Offline Vesteralen

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #29 on: July 18, 2012, 12:24:24 PM »
Tell it! We want to know!

Well, I hope it won't disappoint you, and some of it is pure speculation...but, it's like a little mystery I credit myself with solving.

Back in the early 1990's, I got very interested in silent films.  In addition to watching a couple hundred videos, I read every book I could find on the subject.  My travels once took me to the Allegheny (North Side) library in Pittsburgh where I took out a biography of the silent film star Miriam Cooper called "Dark Lady of the Silents".

As I was reading it, I was more than puzzled by marginal references written in pencil by someone who seemed to know Ms Cooper personally.  (The references were by no means flattering, let me tell you, and even a bit scurrilous.)  I was stumped by this until a year or so later I came across a reference somewhere to the fact that when Barry Paris, a Pittsburgh film critic, was writing his ground-breaking biography on Louise Brooks, he was given access to Louise Brooks' own book collection and, (and here I am hazy on what I read) somehow this collection of books, in whole or in part, came into the possession of either the University of Pittsburgh, or the public library of the same.

At any rate, I then became convinced that the marginal references were Ms Brooks' own.  I could be wrong of course, but...

I always wanted to go back to see if that book was still there and if they'd be willing to sell it to me  (but, then, I'm not sure I'd want anyone to think I had written some of those things myself if they found it in my collection.  ;) )

Elgarian

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #30 on: July 18, 2012, 12:26:53 PM »
Ethel Waters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRtOqIU89d4 (starts at 0.45)
Connee Boswell: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZk3fOzKpQ4
Ella Fitzgerald: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJmqOfcqVg0&feature=related or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8va5HjZl1Nw&feature=related(note imitations)
Anita O'Day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AGvuIP9834
June Christy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpCKGAg9T-o
Sarah Vaughan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NA9mxA9B0OQ
Billie Holiday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAR4aEtaH4c (singing Starts at 1.25)
Dorris Day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RF3KaHImHu4
Lena Horne: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUWXLUtiJNo (perhaps some remember this film...)
Peggy Lee: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyyrV3W9tEk
Annette Hanshaw: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufBLTay2cjs (starts around 0.45)

Gosh, what a very up and down experience it was, listening to these! For me there's an absolutely stand-out winner: Sarah Vaughan. This made me want to get out all my Sarah Vaughan records and listen to them all, and buy some more - which is weird, because I'd never have described her as one of my tip-top favourites. Wonderful performer, yes, but not a personal favourite. This has made me wonder if I've made a bit of progress in the last year or so.

Billie Holiday's surely is, similarly, a phenomenal performance - but there's still a bit of a wall between Billie and me. I know she's amazing - heck I can hear she's doing amazing things - but my personal response is discomfitingly lukewarm.

I didn't enjoy the performances by Ella and Ethel at all. Not because they were in any sense poor, but because there's nothing so dull as a joke you don't find funny, and so these were both a non-event for me.

Connee Boswell - quite nice (sounds like damning with faint praise). Doris Day - far too much sweetening to be my cup of tea. Anita - OMG the sacrilege committed upon this recording by that man! And so on for the others, really - no one else made me want to go and listen to their other records. So Sarah takes the bouquet, for me.

[I should mention Annette. I just smiled my way through her version because I'm in love with her. I don't think it's particularly good - idiosyncratic, and very obviously her, but this alone wouldn't send me back to my Hanshaw collection.]

Elgarian

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #31 on: July 18, 2012, 12:35:22 PM »
Well, I hope it won't disappoint you, and some of it is pure speculation...but, it's like a little mystery I credit myself with solving.

Back in the early 1990's, I got very interested in silent films.  In addition to watching a couple hundred videos, I read every book I could find on the subject.  My travels once took me to the Allegheny (North Side) library in Pittsburgh where I took out a biography of the silent film star Miriam Cooper called "Dark Lady of the Silents".

As I was reading it, I was more than puzzled by marginal references written in pencil by someone who seemed to know Ms Cooper personally.  (The references were by no means flattering, let me tell you, and even a bit scurrilous.)  I was stumped by this until a year or so later I came across a reference somewhere to the fact that when Barry Paris, a Pittsburgh film critic, was writing his ground-breaking biography on Louise Brooks, he was given access to Louise Brooks' own book collection and, (and here I am hazy on what I read) somehow this collection of books, in whole or in part, came into the possession of either the University of Pittsburgh, or the public library of the same.

At any rate, I then became convinced that the marginal references were Ms Brooks' own.  I could be wrong of course, but...

I always wanted to go back to see if that book was still there and if they'd be willing to sell it to me  (but, then, I'm not sure I'd want anyone to think I had written some of those things myself if they found it in my collection.  ;) )

Marvellous tale! It reminds me of the idea that in the best ghost stories the ghost never appears. So in your story the presence of Louise Brooks has to be deduced, or imagined, with no actual certainty available. Heck, I almost don't want to know for sure whether Brooks's collection truly did go to Pittsburgh library!

Delightful. Thank you!

Offline Vesteralen

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #32 on: July 18, 2012, 12:54:23 PM »
Gosh, what a very up and down experience it was, listening to these! For me there's an absolutely stand-out winner: Sarah Vaughan. This made me want to get out all my Sarah Vaughan records and listen to them all, and buy some more - which is weird, because I'd never have described her as one of my tip-top favourites. Wonderful performer, yes, but not a personal favourite. This has made me wonder if I've made a bit of progress in the last year or so.

Billie Holiday's surely is, similarly, a phenomenal performance - but there's still a bit of a wall between Billie and me. I know she's amazing - heck I can hear she's doing amazing things - but my personal response is discomfitingly lukewarm.

I didn't enjoy the performances by Ella and Ethel at all. Not because they were in any sense poor, but because there's nothing so dull as a joke you don't find funny, and so these were both a non-event for me.

Connee Boswell - quite nice (sounds like damning with faint praise). Doris Day - far too much sweetening to be my cup of tea. Anita - OMG the sacrilege committed upon this recording by that man! And so on for the others, really - no one else made me want to go and listen to their other records. So Sarah takes the bouquet, for me.

[I should mention Annette. I just smiled my way through her version because I'm in love with her. I don't think it's particularly good - idiosyncratic, and very obviously her, but this alone wouldn't send me back to my Hanshaw collection.]

Thanks for sharing your takes.

I do have a predilection toward Ethel Waters.  I wish we could hear all these singers on an even playing field (sound-technology-wise).  It would still be fascinating to hear someone like Ethel Waters or Annette Hanshaw in modern sound.

« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 04:13:16 AM by Vesteralen »

eyeresist

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #33 on: July 18, 2012, 05:56:20 PM »
I too lifted an eyebrow at the idea of Doris Day as a jazz singer, but a moment's googling took me to these 1952's radio transcriptions, which surprised me:

http://www.amazon.com/Doris-Day-Complete-Standard-Transcriptions/dp/B000R02FJW

Her singing always comes over as too sugary for my taste, but it seems that she does have some something  like jazz in her back-catalogue.

DD originally rose to renown as a singer with Les Brown (see what I did there?), and at her height as a screen star was recording a couple of albums a year. She had a warm sweet tone and great lungs, and deceptively simple style. I believe she cited Ella as her primary influence, but she's more flirtatious than I ever heard from Ella. Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps is hella sexy!

Ethel Waters is v cool too.

Never been a great Billie fan - her sound is too weird for me.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2012, 05:58:46 PM by eyeresist »

Elgarian

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #34 on: July 18, 2012, 07:37:25 PM »
It's probably not fair of me to do assessments like this based on a single hearing of each piece, and nothing I said is written in stone.  I do have a predilection toward Ethel Waters, but I agree with you that the male-voice imitation part of her song isn't a 100% winner.  I wish we could hear all these singers on an even playing field (sound-technology-wise).  I can set aside the old sound (as I'm sure you can, since you've probably spent hundreds of hours listening to all those old Elgar-conducts-Elgar recordings), but it would still be fascinating to hear someone like Ethel Waters or Annette Hanshaw in modern sound.

Oh gosh, yes to everything here. In my case, everything I say is written not in stone, but in plasticine - such is the rate of change of my responses to some of these singers. About the 'imitation' problem: Annette Hanshaw did quite a few of those, imitating Helen Kane, Ruth Etting etc, and while it was obviously 'the thing' back then, it seems pretty tiresome here and now.

You're right - the 'archaic' sound quality doesn't trouble me now. Actually, I'm far more troubled by some of the badly 'digitally restored' versions I've heard, where the cost of eliminating the shellac surface noise is to make the singer seem as if she's gargling under water. A bit of hiss is much easier to cope with than the sometimes grotesque artefacts that poor restoration produces.

Context also affects how we hear them. In the wonderful animated movie by Nina Paley called Sita Sings the Blues, Hanshaw's recordings are used throughout, and (I find) in the context of using them to retell the Ramayana there's no sense of them seeming 'old-fashioned' at all. Mind you, Paley uses (I think) the superb restorations by Sensation Records, which are among the very finest I've heard. They make most other Hanshaw recordings sound poor. This CD, for instance, is amazing in that respect:



http://www.amazon.co.uk/Vol-6-1929-Annette-Hanshaw/dp/B00004SSY6/ref=sr_1_4?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1342671880&sr=1-4

And to illustrate my point about context (and the excellence of restoration), here's a clip from Sita Sings the Blues (which, I appreciate, may well be a love-it-or-hate-it affair):

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/3kHU70c4tYY" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/3kHU70c4tYY</a>

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #35 on: July 18, 2012, 11:32:03 PM »
And to illustrate my point about context (and the excellence of restoration), here's a clip from Sita Sings the Blues (which, I appreciate, may well be a love-it-or-hate-it affair):

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/3kHU70c4tYY" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/3kHU70c4tYY</a>
So many posts since I went to bed last night, too many to comment about everything, so I'll start from the last. This is a strange video, but I like the singing. It captures the time period very well and I would never doubt the rough period when this was recorded. Isn't it strange that I am not bothered in the least by the old quality of the recording, but when I listen to classical, the same thing would drive me up the wall?

Back to Sarah Vaughan, I think she's pretty remarkable (even if it didn't seem that way in my comments). What I didn't like in the clip wasn't the singing (which I liked), but some of the stylistic choices they made (but I only make this comment for this one song/version, as I might like the next one). For example, I think she is pretty special in Misty (where I much prefer the slower speed, which is the way I often played it on the saxophone). Take a listen:

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/yJ-9IBZaydQ" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/yJ-9IBZaydQ</a>

Ella is also fantastic (here is one version she did):
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/rPOlakkBlj8" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/rPOlakkBlj8</a>
It's just so different in impact. Here are two versions I simply cannot choose between - they both draw something out of the music that I love. Ella has a certain simplicity and directness that is tremendous here. I had to listen to both to the end. Here is a song that I feel just doesn't work as well with a guy. Eckstine (well known for Misty) doesn't get to the heart of it all (nor does Sinatra, beautiful as the voice itself may be).  Or try Lloyd Price, who distorts/changes the song entirely!!

And thank you both (Elgarian and Vesteralen) for sharing those stories. I love stuff like that!!
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Elgarian

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #36 on: July 19, 2012, 01:50:43 AM »
Back to Sarah Vaughan, ... I think she is pretty special in Misty (where I much prefer the slower speed, which is the way I often played it on the saxophone). Take a listen:

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/yJ-9IBZaydQ" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/yJ-9IBZaydQ</a>

Ella is also fantastic (here is one version she did):
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/rPOlakkBlj8" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/rPOlakkBlj8</a>
It's just so different in impact. Here are two versions I simply cannot choose between - they both draw something out of the music that I love. Ella has a certain simplicity and directness that is tremendous here. I had to listen to both to the end

There were moments, listening to both of these supreme performances, when I got pretty misty myself. As you say - completely different in approach. I was particularly taken by the way in which Sarah managed to convey seriousness and joy in her own singing at the same time - as if there were two components to the performances: the expression of the song, and her delight in her own ability to do it so perfectly. But both these performances are beyond description.

About Sita Sings the Blues: there's a big difference in impact between seeing the whole movie, and seeing mere snippets, like this, hacked out of the whole. There are four distinct styles of animation at work in the movie (only one seen here), pulling together various cultural modes in a way that completely hooked me despite my substantial reservations at the outset. I'll put a more comprehensive post together on Sita at some point, I think.

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #37 on: July 19, 2012, 02:02:49 AM »
There were moments, listening to both of these supreme performances, when I got pretty misty myself. As you say - completely different in approach. I was particularly taken by the way in which Sarah managed to convey seriousness and joy in her own singing at the same time - as if there were two components to the performances: the expression of the song, and her delight in her own ability to do it so perfectly. But both these performances are beyond description.

About Sita Sings the Blues: there's a big difference in impact between seeing the whole movie, and seeing mere snippets, like this, hacked out of the whole. There are four distinct styles of animation at work in the movie (only one seen here), pulling together various cultural modes in a way that completely hooked me despite my substantial reservations at the outset. I'll put a more comprehensive post together on Sita at some point, I think.
I agree with you - she sings with a joy that is palpable (from within). I think the thing that blows me away about Sarah Vaughan here is that it is just so intimate. I almost feel like she is singing to me and only me. In any case, her vocal control is just amazing. I can't help watching again!

About Sita - I hadn't realized this was part of a movie. I watched it from GMG (when I went to youtube I saw all the other snippets). This is something I'm just not familiar with, so anything you have to add would be of interest.
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Elgarian

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #38 on: July 19, 2012, 08:14:03 AM »
I agree with you - she sings with a joy that is palpable (from within). I think the thing that blows me away about Sarah Vaughan here is that it is just so intimate. I almost feel like she is singing to me and only me.

Yes you've expressed that perfectly. It feels like one-to-one even though I know it's not. As if she's saying: 'And by the way, I'll tell you this very personal thing about how I feel about singing this song...'

Quote
About Sita - I hadn't realized this was part of a movie. I watched it from GMG (when I went to youtube I saw all the other snippets). This is something I'm just not familiar with, so anything you have to add would be of interest.

I think under normal circumstances I'd be very dismissive of a 'cartoon' musical. Such a thing wouldn't interest me at all. So it's quite something to discover not just that it won me over, but that it's become one of my very favourite movies. Here's the story:

Sita Sings the Blues

The movie was created almost single-handedly by a graphic artist, Nina Paley. She'd had the grim experience of being rejected by her husband, and in the course of dealing with her misery she'd stumbled across two different art forms: the vulnerable (underlying the apparently cheerful) singing of Annette Hanshaw, and the ancient Indian legend of Rama and Sita recounted in the Ramayana. She saw parallels between her own experience and both these art forms - each drawing on archetypal notions of injustice and loss - and she started to piece them together to make a composite art form, using four different styles of animation to bring a kind of creative visually dissonant energy to the whole. She tells the modern story of her own experience in one; she has three shadow narrators discussing the meaning of the Ramayana in another; the basic narrative of Rama and Sita is played out in another, reminiscent of Indian paintings; and finally Sita sings the songs of Annette Hanshaw in a fourth graphic style ( the one you've seen).

Having made the movie, over several years, she discovered that the copyright situation with respect to Hanshaw's recordings was far more complicated than she'd assumed. And rather than line the pockets of the lawyers, she decided to buy a licence ($50,000) which enabled her to give the movie away for free, and hope that by inviting donations and selling Sita-related merchandise she'd recoup her losses. It turned out that she actually made more money by this method than she'd have made through more traditional methods.

The movie won lots of awards (and deserved to, in my opinion). She invites those interested not merely to download it or view it for free, but also to copy it and give copies away - on the grounds that copying is not stealing; it's an expression of love. Whether or not one agrees, the movie is available, and is (at least for me and many others) sheer delight. It haunts me. I've watched it several times over and love it more each time. And anything that enables me to listen to lots of Annette Hanshaw can't be bad.

Download link:
http://sitasingstheblues.com/wiki/index.php?title=SitaSites

Streaming link on Youtube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8LvBnz7oRA

Merchandising site:
http://questioncopyright.com/index.html

Distribution ethos:
http://questioncopyright.org/sita_distribution

Offline Vesteralen

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Re: Female jazz vocalists of the 1920s/30s/40s/50s
« Reply #39 on: July 19, 2012, 09:24:01 AM »
I think I lean more toward Ella than you do.  Part of it has to do with voice quality.  I've always had a very difficult time with the richer, vibrato-filled voices (especially in opera).  My bias is toward direct, clear singing - and Ella had that more that anyone...ever. 

However, both Sarah and Ella were truly jazz singers, and not just pop singers singing songs some jazz musicians happened to also cover.  I do think that's what sets both of them apart from most of the others of their generation who were sometimes labeled "jazz vocalists" (with a few obvious exceptions, like Anita O'Day and June Christy, of course).
« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 04:14:53 AM by Vesteralen »