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Quick: name some of the most innovative, excellent vocal ensembles in jazz over the last half century. Your list would probably include such notable ensembles as Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, Singers Unlimited, Manhattan Transfer, and New York Voices. Well, here's another group that belongs in that top echelon. At the same time Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross was blowing U.S. audiences away with their close-harmony vocalese interpretations of jazz classics, this group at twice the size (two women, four men) was doing the same thing in France. The main spark plug here is Mimi Perrin, who wrote all of the French lyrics and is the only person who remains consistent throughout all of the personnel permutations. Note also the participation of Ward Swingle, who would go on to form his own formidible vocal ensemble, the Swingle Singers.
This twenty-song retrospective covers sessions recorded during five intervals between 1959 and 1962. Half of the tunes are connected with Quincy Jones - they're either his compositions or were recorded by his orchestra (or both). In all cases, this is vocalese at its finest; all of the arrangements and vocal solos are true to the versions recorded by the bands who made them famous. The ability of these six voices to execute lightning-quick lines with perfect phrasing and close harmonies often leaves me in jaw-dropped astonishment. There are too many highlights here to single out any in this review - it's all outstanding. These singers are deeply steeped in the jazz tradition.
If you enjoy the works of any of the groups mentioned at the beginning of this review, you simplymustseek out this recording.
Track Listing: For Lena and Lennie; Rat Race; Stockholm Sweetnin'; Boo's Bloos; Doodlin'; Meet Benny Bailey; Evening in Paris; Count 'em; Tickle Toe; Early Autumn; Sweets; Naima; Westwood Walk; A Night in Tunisia; A Ballad; Scrapple from the Apple; Boplicity; Moanin'; Fascinating Rhythm; Walkin'. (68:11)
Personnel: Mimi Perrin, Ward Swingle, Jean-Claude Briodin, Jacques Denjean, Christiane Legrand, Monique Aldebert, Louis Aldebert, Jean-Louis Conrozier, Roger Guerin, Claudine Barge, Eddy Louiss - vocals; Art Simons, Georges Arvanitas, Rene Urtreger - piano; Michel Gaudry, Pierre Michelot - bass; Daniel Humair, Christian Garros, Kenny Clarke - drums; Elek Bacsik, Paul Piguilhem - guitar; Jean-Pierre Drouet - bongos, Eddy Louiss - vibes.