Sultry bossa novas rule the field of jazz singers

Jazz notes brighten up the charts. Unsurprisingly, some of them are the magical, lush crooning of our very own Frost School of Music jazz singers, with warm, masterful male piano leaders backing them up.

Since the birth of jazz (late 19th to early 20th century), women have been a hidden gem in a genre largely dominated by men. You might think of crooners like Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Cab Calloway, Jon Hendricks, Al Jarreau and Michael Bublé. But for every man who has achieved lasting fame in the genre, there are just as many women who have grabbed the mic from the front of the bandstand. In fact, women are said to have dominated the field of jazz singer. And today there is a new wave (bossa nova) of fabulous female jazz artists who are reinventing contemporary jazz.

Since the first jazz recordings, there has been no shortage of talented female jazz singers over the decades. And if you’re trying to compile the “10 Best Female Jazz Vocals” of all time, well, it’s next to impossible, as most music insiders can attest. And yet, if you ask a jazz singer who influenced him the most in his career, he might hail the mighty Holy Trinity – Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah “Sassy” Vaughan – as top superstars. from their list.

Add to that some contemporary jazz singers: Nina Simone, Peggy Lee, Madeleine Peytoux and Norah Jones. These vocal powerhouses combine a sultry voice with masterful piano skills. And, of course, there’s Diana Krall. To date, she is the best-selling female jazz singer of the 21st century.

To understand the roots of this genre, you need to know that “jazz is a really big word,” said star jazz singer Catherine Russell. Of course, he has a deep historical connection to America, and specifically to the blues. So you can’t separate the African American experience from jazz. Ella, Billie and Sarah had to endure their struggles. Every time a jazz singer sings or listens to one of her recordings, she may think about what these women had to overcome to get on stage and how these women’s experiences compare to theirs.

“It’s like our country’s true offering to the world,” said jazz pianist and Frost School of Music alumnus Emmett Cohen. “I’ve spent a lot of time with jazz masters, octogenarians and nonagenarians who have dedicated their lives to playing this music, who have fought for equality in New York for generations through this music.”

Depending on the type of jazz a singer performs (and there are subgenres), some of it is structured, while much of it is unstructured.

“The genre that I love is the type that I can personally express myself differently every time I sing the same tune, depending on how I feel at the time,” added Catherine Russellwhose interest in jazz music began in childhood.

His father, Luis Russell, was a well-known pianist and the leader of one of the most impressive big bands on the New York jazz scene. He worked with King Oliver, who gave Louis Armstrong his first big break. Catherine spent many years on the road with rock, blues, jazz, soul and gospel bands. She also toured with David Bowie as a member of the band, providing backing vocals and contributing guitar, keyboard and percussion for Bowie’s. pagan tour, A tour of realityfrom 2002 to 2004.

In her twenties and thirties, she recorded with her father’s orchestras on 1940s and 1950s R&B, apparently “loving all things swingy”. Russell also performed last Friday at the roots of jazz series at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County.

“I was invited by my dear friend, Frost School of Music Dean Shelly Berg to play at Jazz Roots with saxophonist Tom Scott, so it was an invitation I couldn’t refuse,” a- she declared. The popular Jazz Roots perform several shows throughout the year at their stunning Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami. The concerts bring together jazz legends from around the world with a mix of performances that explore jazz fusion, such as Cuban and Latin jazz.

Along with the guest performance by Russell and Scott, this first Jazz Roots concert was a multimedia tribute to jazz pioneer, pianist and composer Dave Brubeck. It showcased the talents of Dave’s sons, Chris and Dan Brubeck, who performed and recorded with their father in the 1970s and put on a multimedia show with their own Brubeck Brothers Quartet. They were joined by the winner Frost Concert Jazz Band from Frost School of Music.

Over the years, Frost has been an incubator of talented female jazz singers. It is therefore not surprising that his Jazz vocal performance program is one of the best in the country. Some of the program’s renowned singers, jazz singing alumni Danielle Werz’17, Veronique Swift’15, and Ashley Pezzotti’18, plus the vocal performance major June Cavlanseek singers like Russell and headline some of the hottest jazz scenes in Miami, New York, Chicago, New Orleans, LA and the Bay.

Each has a unique voice and personality, making them an integral part of the bossa nova movement. Like many Jazz Vocal Performance graduates, who have graced the cover of DownBeat Magazine, a leading publication in the jazz industry, they have won awards, released CDs and more. For them and others, the Frost School of Music was not just their dream school, but a place where they learned to become a new voice in jazz, like our senior star, June Cavlan.

June, a jazz singer, arranger and teacher from Santa Cruz, California, pursues music studies focused on performance, composition, arrangement and improvisation. To date, she has won several DownBeat Music Awards for his singing group and was a Young Arts winner as a solo singer.

“One of the things that makes this program very, very unique is the many experiences available to singers to learn a multitude of skills,” explained the director of the Frost School of Music’s jazz vocal performance program and associate professor. studio and jazz music, Dr. Kate Reid.

“Our students leave here having led their own bands and led at least three public performances per semester. These artists essentially become bandleaders, musical arrangers and producers,” Reid added. “In addition to having the opportunity to create their own music, they learn the basics of jazz through the study of improvisation and the different styles under the broader umbrella of the jazz genre. In their next steps after graduation Upon graduation, these students have the opportunity to decide how they will build a career using all aspects of their artistry and musicality.”

Each year, Reid invites other professionals like Luciana Souzathis year’s artist-in-residence in the Vocal Performance program, to teach and mentor students at the Frost School of Music.

“One of the questions I always ask students is, ‘How do you make a living as a singer?’ As a Hispanic in America, I don’t have a full-time job. I have four part-time jobs and I dance a crazy dance. The first thing I do is to empower students by educating them. And they’re well-placed at Frost, a school that receives, collects and nurtures unique voices,” Souza said.

Many of our Frost jazz vocalists write their own jazz-informed music. They embark on other careers as songwriters which also lead them to tour with the best jazz masters in the world. And along the way, they learn jazz influences from Ella Fitzgerald to Nora Jones and what they’ve been up to, as well as critical career lessons like, “If they’re not on time, we won’t tell them. won’t ask to come back.”

Simple things like that make or break a career. These skills, lessons and the professional relationships established at Frost pave the way for the most sensual jazz bossa novas. These bright young stars carry on the legacy of Ella, Billie, Nina, Peggy and Sarah. They carry on a centuries-old tradition of women leading the jazz scene with languid ballads and supreme control of every note.

For more on jazz vocalists Frost Danielle Wertz, Veronica Swift, Ashley Pezzotti and June Cavlan, and the jazzmen who accompany them on stage, like jazz pianist/composer Emmet Cohen, be sure to read Score Magazine, a publication of Frost School of Music, to be published in the spring of 2023.