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Interviews

Julia Dollison and Kerry Marsh: Raising Their Voices

By Published: June 8, 2010
Explains Marsh, "For the low trombones I would use an 'O-H,' adding a consonant under that, like 'doh' or 'loh' or something. I would keep it a little bit darker. I could bring in a brassy sound too, with that. But it was mostly to separate that section from the brass. With the saxophones, pretty uniformly we went with an 'A-H' sound, kind of an 'ah' sound. That sort of separated those guys as well. Then in the mixing process, we utilized a little EQ [equalization] separation, so that we had everybody occupying a certain sonic space. So it didn't become a soup of sound. That's what we were worried about. That's what Maria was worried about."

there were worries that the voices would mash together and countermelodies would be lost, as well as some intimacy. "It seemed like the mixing process would be brutal. But it turned out easier than we thought," says Marsh. "We thought it would be a nightmare—a worthy nightmare, but a nightmare. But it worked out OK by using different syllables and a little bit of EQ treatment." Notes Dollison, "We were very deliberate and conscious in getting the sounds as accurate."

Marsh says they considered singing transcribed solos of the instruments, but that maneuver would have been too close to a straight copy of the original music. "We needed to do things with it and sing our own solos. And having the band get sort of a second crack at performing these songs live, they played differently on our tracks than they did on the original recordings. I think that's another reason people are liking it, because they can hear alternate takes of these pieces."

The disk has been well received and is selling beyond the couple's expectations. "Maria's been so generous in endorsing the project from the beginning," says Dollison. "She sent off e-mail blasts to her whole fan base. And it's on her website promoting it. That really helps that she donated some of her fan base to our project."

Schneider had a small role in what the couple had in comment when they met, which was in 2003 at the IAJE conference in Toronto, where Dollison was performing. Marsh was at the conference as an educator. He was urged by colleagues to go hear Dollison, "and I was blown away," he says. "I would go to her website once in awhile and check in to see if she had anything new posted. Two years later, I was at Sacramento State and my group was invited to perform at IAJE. When I saw that she was again performing—this was 2005 in Long beach [California]—I made my group go see Julia. My kids all showed up at her gig. Then we invited her to our gig. She came to watch us perform.

"Afterward," Marsh continues, 'we both looked at each other and said, 'Oh my god, we have to talk. We have a lot in common.' She was doing Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
b.1954
guitar
, Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
b.1945
piano
and Kenny Wheeler
Kenny Wheeler
Kenny Wheeler
b.1930
trumpet
tunes in her set. We were doing that kind of thing in our ensemble set . So we got together and realized we both had an attraction to Maria Schneider."

Adds Marsh, "At the end of that conference, we left for home on Sunday. On Wednesday I was flying out from Sacramento to New York to spend a week with her, after having just met for a couple days. So it was really quick. We were married six months after we met that second time. Over the summer. And she moved out to Sacramento."

Says Dollison with a chuckle, "We call it love at first listen."

Among the things they had in common was a dedication to vocal music and to education. As far as how each one sings and approaches their own vocal instrument, they have their own disparate influences.

"For solo vocalists, the closest one that resembles the way I perform on this project would be Norma Winstone
Norma Winstone
Norma Winstone
b.1941
vocalist
," who once performed with Kenny Wheeler's big band. "She was his vocalist and did the wordless, abstract singing and improvising. But I also have a lot of more modern influences. I'm a big fan of all the vocal jazz groups. One of the more recent ones is Moss. It's two of the New York Voices, Peter Eldridge
Peter Eldridge
Peter Eldridge

vocalist
and Lauren Kinhan, along with Kate McGarry
Kate McGarry
Kate McGarry

vocalist
, Luciana Souza
Luciana Souza
Luciana Souza

vocalist
and Theo Bleckmann
Theo Bleckmann
Theo Bleckmann

vocalist
. If there is one more for me it would be Dianne Reeves
Dianne Reeves
Dianne Reeves
b.1956
vocalist
. She covers it all. She's great."

Marsh grew up with strongly affected by Pat Metheny's music. "Pat is one of the biggest inspirations for both of us throughout our whole careers. For me the sound of those male vocalists that he has singing with the Pat Metheny Group over the years, like David Blamires, Nana Vasconcelos
Nana Vasconcelos
Nana Vasconcelos
b.1944
percussion
, Richard Bona
Richard Bona
Richard Bona
b.1967
bass, electric
and Cuong Vu
Cuong Vu
Cuong Vu
b.1969
trumpet
. Some of the sounds I was making on this album really come right out of that. I've been doing it for years; that wordless vocal sound."


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