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Rolling Stone India’s Jazz Playlist

This week hear vocal renditions of instrumental classics

Sunil Sampat Apr 04, 2019

Scroll down to listen to Rolling Stone India's weekly Jazz Playlist.

Jazz is based on improvisations. An instrumentalist is given musical space to ‘play his piece,’ essentially to express his feeling at that time for the tune that is being played. Over its long history, jazz recordings have many examples of inspired improvised solos from different artists on various instruments. Some of these notable solos have been interpreted with lyrics by jazz musicians who have taken their creativity and musical freedom to a different level!

This week’s playlist consists of such vocal renditions. Here, we mention both the instrumental original and the vocal version inspired from it. I would recommend that one listens to the instrumental and vocal versions in pairs to truly appreciate the vocal skills on display, as of the creative lyrics assigned to the song.

1) “Sunny Side of the Street”   

Instrumental version by Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt.
Each of these great jazz musicians, Gillespie on trumpet, Rollins on tenor sax and Stitt on alto sax each  plays very  a creative solo.

Vocal version by Roberta Gambarini. An excellent interpretation by this talented vocalist where she sings to each of the three solos from Diz, Rollins and Stitt. Note how she changes the pitch of her voice to match the high and low sounds from the three brass instruments!

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2) “Tanya”

Instrumental version by Dexter Gordon on tenor sax.

Vocal version sung as “Tanya Jean” by Kurt Elling.

3) “Take 5”

Instrumental original by The Dave Brubeck Quartet. This is perhaps the best known jazz number of all time. Most jazz listeners can probably hum it in its entirety!

Instrumental versions ”“ there are two we recommend. One is by Carmen MacRae and another by Al Jarreau.

4) “Airegin”  

Instrumental version by Sonny Rollins, who wrote this song. The name is interesting: it is “Nigeria” spelt backwards!

Vocal version is quite a classic. It is a ‘live’ recording from the vocalese trio of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. This performance captures the essence of jazz vocal improvisation.

5) “Freddie Freeloader” 

The instrumental is from the great jazz album Kind of Blue from Miles Davis, with John Coltrane on tenor sax, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley on alto sax and Wynton Kelly on piano.

The vocal version is also an all star quartet of singers with Hendricks, Bobby McFerrin, George Benson and Jarreau. Each of these vocalists sings lyrics to the solos by the quartet of instrumentalists in Davis’ iconic version.

There are many more such pairings waiting to be discovered. What are you waiting for?

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