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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Nina Simone

Ms. Nina Simone, reminds us that the most poignant vocal performances are not always the ones that are pristine.  Nina Simone's vocal style was unique.  Her voice was truly magnetic, drawing us down to the depths of the turbulent waters that filled her soul.  Darkness, warmth, tragedy and truth are tattooed on each line of every lyric she sang.  

Nina Simone was also a songwriter and a remarkable pianist.

If you haven't heard Ms. Simone, take a listen.  

This post is not about Ms. Simone's days as an activist or her personal challenges.  If you want to learn more about her, you can visit Wikipedia:

Singing is a Soul Thing

I was just watching, on Youtube, an amazing performance given by Christina Aguilera at the 2007 Grammy Awards, as a tribute to the late James Brown.  She sang It's a Man's World.  I am sure many of you have seen this performance.  That girl dug down deep, and I am quite sure, made the Father of soul, (R.I.P.) proud!

Unfortunately, for me, I scrolled down and caught a few comments, which made me sad.  People picking at her in one way or another, even slamming her technical ability.  Really?!  C'mon!  Just enjoy the show folks, and quit being armchair critics.

Man, its the soul of the singer!  YES, of course it is the ability too, but its the ability woven with the threads of the singer's soul, and the human imperfections that make the iconic singers, great.  The note may not be pure, but its human.  It's rough, its painted, its ethereal, its breathy, its bold, its sexy It's a performance.

Who would pick apart Billie Holiday or Frank Sinatra?  Bessie Smith or Steven Tyler?  Janis Joplin or Nina Simone.  All impactful singers and performers.  Not one of them perfect singers.  Thankfully!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald

I've recently made a pact with myself to expand my vocal style and improve my technique, and in the process, I have been studying various vocal artists. One of those artists I am studying, and with whom I have become completely enamored, is Ella Fitzgerald.

Growing up, I had heard various "old" tunes that she was noted for, and of course, Louis Armstrong always came to mind when her name was mentioned, but other than being aware that she was queen of  scat and jazz, I never paid her much attention.  BIG mistake.  HUGE.  This woman was utterly amazing.  (Like, super-hero amazing.)

Here is an excerpt from her biography on her official website:

Dubbed "The First Lady of Song," Ella Fitzgerald was the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century. In her lifetime, she won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums.

Her voice was flexible, wide-ranging, accurate and ageless. She could sing sultry ballads, sweet jazz and imitate every instrument in an orchestra. She worked with all the jazz greats, from Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Nat King Cole, to Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Goodman. (Or rather, some might say all the jazz greats had the pleasure of working with Ella.)

She performed at top venues all over the world, and packed them to the hilt. Her audiences were as diverse as her vocal range. They were rich and poor, made up of all races, all religions and all nationalities. In fact, many of them had just one binding factor in common - they all loved her.

 Do yourself a favor and read her whole biography. 

This "crazy good" scat:

Oh, YEAH!!  If you are singer, you know how difficult this is.  She hits all the little passing notes of each riff with accuracy and makes it look easy, not to mention her ability to just "let herself go", and "wing it".  Study her kids!  If your not a singer, just enjoy :)

Ella was quoted as saying: "I sing like I feel"  Here's to feeling good Ella!  And, thanks for the very humbling performances.

Til next time...


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Singers: Dusty Springfield

I was listening to some old Dusty Springfield today, (not that there is any really new Dusty Springfield) I'm talking back in the 60s.  Blue Eyed Soul. This woman's voice was purely soulful in nature.  Husky, breathy in all the right places and smooth as silk.  I tried to compare some female singers today with Dusty and simply came up short.  Although, there are a number of "retro soul" gals around, who are VERY good, one ingredient is often missing - the ability to just "tell a story.  Many of today's artists tend to throw in so many vocal acrobatics, it takes away from the actual story...the reason for the song.  Perhaps in Dusty's day things were just simpler.  Purer.  A song was a song, no crazy production antics, no pitch correction, just a lot of blood, sweat and grit...oh, and reverb, they did have a lot of reverb.  Rest in peace Dusty.

Sometime circa 1966?

Dusty had a lot of hits, her more famous ones would be "Son of a Preacher Man" "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and the list goes on.

I hope you will check her out, it will be worth your time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Singers: Tom Jones

Tom Jones is probably my favorite singer/performer of all time. The man could and still can "bring it".

It was my ninth birthday and my father bought "gold" tickets to see Tom Jones at the War Memorial Theater in Rochester, N.Y. We were maybe ten or eleven rows back from the stage and I was sooooo excited to see him. I was too young to understand or care about all the panty throwing and pheromones in the air... man, I just wanted to see and hear him sing.  AND HE DID!  After seeing Tom Jones live, there was no doubt in my young little brain that I wanted to be "just like him" when I grew up, well maybe not just like him...Thanks Tom.

Keep in mind, the clips below are live. No pitch correction, no lip syncing. His presentation is amazing and particularly pay attention to his final notes in both songs. Dead on. I don't know of many singers who can pull it off these days. A grand, and what should be mandatory aspiration, I think, for all singers of this day and age!

As long as you are out there "Bringing It" Tom...I'll be your biggest fan!