JazzWax List: With Voices - JazzWax

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June 04, 2010


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Joel Lewis

don't have my collection in front of me, but there is a Paul Desmond album on Fantasy that employs a vocal choir (part of a current tol lps on-one CD & an Andrew Hill date on Blue Note that uses a gospel-type choir. Not to forget the MJQ colloboration on Phillips with the Swingle Singers


some duke ellington's sacred concerts ?

Bill Kirchner

The Charlie Parker recordings with the Dave Lambert Singers failed because both the vocal writing (by Lambert) and the execution of it left much to be desired. As I pointed out in my liner notes for the late '90s CD reissue (CHARLIE PARKER BIG BAND), imagine the difference if the writing had been done by Gene Puerling of Hi Los/Singers Unlimited fame.

For that matter, Puerling's vocal writing for the various '70s Singers Unlimited MPS albums (many with instrumentalists such as Oscar Peterson, Art Van Damme, Clare Fischer, Roger Kellaway, Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass, etc.) remains state-of-the-art for jazz-oriented recordings. The stellar vocal group Take 6 has acknowledged their debt to Puerling and his influence.

The Stan Getz VOICES album was originally written for Wes Montgomery by Claus Ogerman. Wes left Verve for A&M, and Getz overdubbed solos.


Hasn't Gil Evans complained about an impatient Norman Granz who just hadn't given them enough time for proper rehearsing these difficult charts? Bird is just all over it. It's a bit hectic, isn't it?

Didn't know that about Stan Getz, overdubbing his solos at the "Voices" album, an LP I don't listen to very often. I will try to substitute Stan's tenor with Wes's guitar sound, the next time I would DJ'ing that very record.

I've heard a weird story about the Wes Montgomery with strings album Fusion!, where producer Creed Taylor had overdubbed the strings over the trio tracks without notifying Wes beforehand.

Jason Crane | The Jazz Session

One of my faves is the Max Roach album It's Time (Impulse, 1962) with Richard Williams (tpt), Clifford Jordan (t sax), Julian Priester (trom), Mal Waldron (p) and Art Davis (bass), plus a choir led by Coleridge Perkinson. Abbey Lincoln is also on one track.

Jeff Helgesen

Not sure if this qualifies, but The Singers Unlimited recorded w/Oscar Peterson Trio on the recording "In Tune" and, if memory serves, with Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass.

There's also Freddie Hubbard's "Sing Me a Song of Songmy".

Michael Steinman

Louis Armstrong with Gordon Jenkins, 1949-52 (think of LISTEN TO THE MOCKINGBIRD and CHLOE, as well as Louis's cover of THAT LUCKY OLD SUN); do the Billie Deccas count in your list? She's as much an instrumentalist as anyone who ever oiled a valve, I think. Or I could be bending the definitions in both cases.

Bill Kirchner

Gil Evans did indeed complain that Norman Granz didn't allow enough rehearsal time for the vocal group on the 1953 Parker date. But my feeling (as an experienced arranger) is that all the rehearsal time in the world wouldn't have helped those charts. It's not so much that they're difficult as that they're too busy and not well-voiced. Lambert at that time simply wasn't experienced enough a vocal writer, especially for larger groups; he makes mistakes common to novices. Gil was a very nice man--here's an example of his niceness.

Ed Leimbacher

Mr. Bill: Where's here? Gil was nice enough NOT to complain too much? or maybe an interview excerpt that didn't get added to your comment? is something missing? (more likely me just missing the point.)

Mr. Marc: Thanks for these lists, even though I won't be adding any vocal faves. Though I sang in choirs as a kid, I really don't enjoy Jazz with choruses much; another failing, no doubt. I'd rather thank you for inspiring me lately (by your choice of pics and words) to pick up the Giuffre/Hall set from abroad, Geller's tribute to Cohn, and the most recent Pepper set issued by Laurie... inarguable winners all.

Bill Kirchner


Gil was too nice to acknowledge (or perhaps chose to overlook) the shortcomings in his friend Dave Lambert's charts; Lambert, BTW, was another "nice guy," by all accounts.

Doug Payne

I concur with Bill that voices don't often go well with jazz...but vocal choirs really do add something special. Here are a few others:

* George Shearing - Night Mist (1958)
* Up With Donald Byrd (1964)
* Paul Horn - Jazz Suite on the Mass Texts (1965)
* Gary McFarland - Soft Samba Strings (1966)
* Ahmad Jamal - Cry Young (1967)
* Ahmad Jamal - The Bright, The Blue and the Beautiful (1968)

Quincy Jones used vocal choirs quite often in his soundtrack work too, if that counts.

By the way Bill, I don't think Creed Taylor had anything to do with Wes Montgomery's "Fusion" album. That was Orrin Keepnews, wasn't it?

Bill Kirchner

It's hard enough to be accountable for things I *did* say, but now the esteemed Doug Payne (proprietor of wonderful websites on Gary McFarland and Oliver Nelson) wants me to account for things I did *not* say (smile).

Ed Leimbacher, not me, expressed reservations about jazz soloists and voices. At this point in my life, I have no problem with any combination that works.

Nor did I mention the Wes Montgomery "Fusion" album, which dates from April 1963 for Riverside--producer Orrin Keepnews, arranger Jimmy Jones. (Bruno Leicht did.) But in any case, according to Don Sebesky, who later arranged numerous albums for Wes for Verve and A&M, Wes froze when put in a studio with string players, so it became standard practice to record him with a rhythm section and then write string and horn arrangements around him to be overdubbed.

Doug Payne

Ooops...please forgive me Bill! I misread the attributes!

Steve Provizer

A nice variation on this idea are the two vocalese versions of instrumentals that King Pleasure cut-again with the Dave Lambert Singers-in 1953: "Sometimes I'm happy" and "This is Always." I've always liked those sides.

Danny Ippolito

I know of these albums but there's one track on Rahsaan Roland Kirk's album, Volunteered Slavery, called The Spirit Up Above that has a very great choir. This is BEAUTIFUL. For those of you who don't have this album, GET IT, even for this track alone. Thanks for everything Marc.



Georgie Auld with Jud Conlon's Rhythmaires is one of the more syrupy efforts of featuring a hot instrument versus sweet voices:


(Hope that link gets through?)

Stan Getz and Lalo Schifrin did also a part of a genuine tenor, voices & strings album, "Reflections":


"Love" is really a good track on that one.

Roy Phillippe

In the mid-60's Andre Previn recorded an album on RCA titled "Andre Previn With Voices" with vocal arrangements by Wayne Robinson and produced by Joe Reisman, two master musicians in their own right.
It's a ballad album including "Street Of Dreams", "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and the like. This is not available on CD but should be.
Neal Hefti recorded two albums with a chorus,"Pardon My Doo-Wah" which contains a number of his compositions for Basie and "Neal Hefti's Singing Instrumentals" with The Ray Charles Choir which is a tribute to big band leaders (Count Basie, Stan Kenton, Artie Shaw, etc.)

Rab Hines

Andrew Hill's "Lift Every Voice" is worth a listen - it's not the first thing of his I usually choose to listen to, but it remains an interesting session.


Andre Previn has one with jazz septet and choir called "What Headphones?" It's a nice album, although not necessarily on a level with the Silver and Williams.

Bruce Stevens

McCoy Tyner's "Inner Voices", using 7 voices.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of 55 More Songs," "Anatomy of a Song," "Rock Concert: An Oral History" and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax has won three Jazz Journalists Association awards.
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