Are band singers putting you off the music?
11/10/12 - "The modern trend of trad bands to sing every other number, and sometimes more frequently, is very off-putting", writes Denis Wyatt. "Many ‘singers’ are not vocalists and as a dedicated listener I – and many others- would love to have bands revert to how it was decades ago when most jazz sessions were mainly instrumental and bands had a singer on board who could sing. Increasingly good bands are spoilt by too many vocals. Please consider this as I know that some bands who are particularly guilty discourage attendance at gigs which will result in more jazz venues folding through lack of funds".
12/10/12 - Dear Fred, I agree entirely with Denis Wyatt. A gentleman was once defined as someone who owned a banjo/saxophone but didn't play it. Our current trouble is people without a voice who still insist on using it. The only person to get away with that was Louis Armstrong! Is it when to play a solo is tricky they escape by singing?
Regards, Philip Cakebread.
12/10/12 - Can I heartily endorse Denis Wyatt's comments about so-called singers in jazz bands. I love to hear a good jazz singer, of whom there are too few around, but absolutely hate the increasing tendency of every band member who can more-or-less follow a tune to insist on singing, regardless of the fact that they add nothing to the musical experience. It would be invidious to name names but there are three bands which regularly visit the North West that I positively avoid for that reason. In fact, I can easily count on one hand the number of current band members whose singing I enjoy". -
12/10/12 - Hi
Cheers, Phil Yates
12/10/12 - Hello Fred,
Wyatt's comments about vocals 'every other number' is interesting.
As far as the 'decades ago' bit well yes, bands played a mainly
instrumental repertoire. Are we talking 'British Trad Bands' or 'New
Orleans Bands' though?
Hello Fred As a founder member and trombone for many years with the Stockton based 'New Orleans Preservation Band' with Pete Wright (tmpt) and later Brian Carrick (clnt) in front of a fine rhythm section. I can sympathise with the view that a mainly instrumental band N'Orleans band is a delight to listen to. However, we have found that by expanding our paradigm to include Swing and Blues sprinkled with more vocals that a non jazz audience and a younger demographic can relate to, we increase the amount of work we get. Correspondingly, with the greater flexibility, we can bring our brand of jazz to a wider audience who *expressly request* the inclusion of vocals in hitherto non-jazz venues. So to Dennis Wyatt, I can only say that this (vocals) policy has paid dividends for 'Pete Jezard & The Blackwater Band' down here in Essex.
I don’t think that many players when they vocalise, kid themselves that they are producing jazz of a high standard. Most, though, can sing either the melody fairly accurately or along with the chord sequence. Are their efforts significantly worse than many solos, when instrumentalists sometimes play the tune straight (if they can), sometimes play a string of clichés (their own or someone else’s), sometimes noodle (playing a stream of notes that are neither definitely wrong nor right – an interesting accomplishment)? I rarely notice musicians refusing solos because either they had nothing to say, or they felt that the tune had gone on for long enough.
Probably there sometimes are too many vocals, but some of those listeners who support jazz at pubs and clubs go for reasons social (“Joe and Betty are always there”) and nostalgic (“Remember the fifties?”). I suspect that they may enjoy vocals. Culture and entertainment are often uneasy bedfellows, but one example (not jazz) which has come my way recently can be seen at
To add to my contribution to the 2012 discussion on band singers I must admit that writing and singing my own lyrics to well known songs is great fun and one of the best ways to entertain an audience. Joe Addy used to sing a song with the Chicago Teds which kept on expanding over the years and had the audience in stitches (I'm sure Brian Singleton will remember it) and Joe didn't HAVE to have a great voice to keep the punters amused. Roy Rogers sang 'It's very clear-Your mothers here to stay' with the same band. That was a pinch from Alan Sherman's version (one day I'll have a go at 'You went the wrong way old King Louis'-it's on You Tube). I also pinched 'Zimmertime' from Frank Brooker (what a plagiarist I am) with ZIMMERTIME (2,3,4,1) AND THE WALKIN' AIN'T EASY (if you can't anticipate the rests you shouldn't be on this site). JOINTS ARE CREAKIN'- AND THE BLOOD PRESSURE'S HIGH...WALK TWENTY FEET...AND YOU END UP WHEEZIN...MY BOXES OF PILLS THEY..STAND UP TWO FEET HIGH'. Jazz singers? Look up Bob Wallis. He could hold an audience in the palm of his epiglottis. Still Swinging. -
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