The last month has been heavy on vocalese, for me. I’m obsessed with the stuff at the best of times but lately I have been on an extra heavy dosage. If the word “vocalese” means nothing to you: it is a subgenre of vocal jazz that involves adding lyrics to recorded instrumental solos. The master of the art is Jon Hendricks, who recently came to play some gigs in London, and thanks to a combination of schmoozing and good fortune I was able to meet him and chat to him for the best part of two hours. He is 89 and fond of conspiracy theories, so the conversation didn’t exactly stay on topic, but it was a real thrill for me and I got some great material, some of which can be found here and some of it will be published in Jazzwise magazine in their March issue. I also reviewed one of his Ronnie Scott’s gigs for MusicOMH.
What Hendricks is to the English language, Mimi Perrin was to French. The lyrics she wrote for the Double Six are unparalleled in their wit and ingenuity, albeit almost impossible to follow if your French is as plodding as mine. I would have loved to meet her (and nearly did: the director of my French vocal group knew her well). However, she passed away on the same night I met Jon Hendricks.
The jazz world also just lost James Moody, who besides being a great bebop saxophonist was the inadvertent begetter of vocalese. I wrote a piece about his contribution to the form for Florian Städtler's Vocal Blog.
I’ve been writing plenty for the above-mentioned MusicOMH, including an interview with the guitarist Gary Lucas (Jeff Buckley and Captain Beefheart collaborator, horror movie soundtracker, lovely guy), and an end-of-year look at one of my favourite albums of 2010, Janelle Monáe’s The Archandroid. It is pipped to my personal album-of-the-year spot, though, by Joanna Newsom’s triple album Have One On Me. I’ve already gushed about Joanna on these pages.
The Hendricks and Lucas interviews were apropos of their visits to London for the London Jazz Festival. I reviewed one or two other Festival gigs, and I also did some research for the Jazz On 3 team. Listen out for their broadcast of a gig by Darcy James Argue's Secret Society.
2010 being almost dispensed with, I am making a firm New Year’s resolution to blog at least once a week starting in 2011. That may happen here at Tosh Pit, or it may happen at my not-quite-ready new website. Either way, brace yourselves.