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Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross: Sing A Song of Basie (1957)

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Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross are pioneers of a unique singing style called vocalese, which involves replacing instrumental jazz with sung lines and invented lyrics. The method was first used by artists such as King Pleasure, who with a rhythm section backing him added lyrics to a Charlie Parker solo in a version that Parker hated. Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross took it to the logical next step, which was to duplicate an entire instrumental arrangement for voices; in this case, Count Basie's charts. Their first attempts involved an entire choir and were largely unsuccessful, mainly because Lambert had trouble locating enough singers that could swing the parts. They then decided to do all the parts themselves, using multiple overdubs, building each track from the ground up. This was probably the best way to do it anyway, since doubling and tripling up on parts makes the individual voices blend together well and cuts down on the clutter.

The results are instantly appealing and downright fun; the Basie charts are enjoyable enough as played by the orchestra, but gain a new level of excitement and a different spirit in these vocalized versions. The lyrics are written not only to communicate the feeling of each song, but also for the rhythm and sound of each word. Some clever interplay is created through the back and forth banter of individual voices, harkening back to the original source of call-and-response. The singing is impressive; some of these lines were difficult enough as instrumental solos, but singing them adds another degree of challenge. Hendricks in particular seems to have a knack for tongue-twisting, rapid lines delivered in huge intervals. Annie Ross has an impressive range as well; she can mimic the high register trumpet lines with ease. The smartest move of all was to include Basie veterans in the rhythm section; they keeps things firmly grounded in the spirit of the Basie orchestra and add the right amount of swing and authenticity to ensure a great delivery.

Vocals are always more


Track Listing: Everyday, It's Sand Man!, Two for the Blues, One O'Clock Jump, Little Pony, Down for the Double, Fiesta in Blue, Down for the Count, Blues Backstage, Avenue C, Four Brothers, Cloudburst, Standin' on the Corner.

Personnel: Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks, and Annie Ross, vocals; Nat Pierce, piano; Freddie Green, guitar; Eddie Jones, bass; Sonny Payne, drums

Record Label: Verve Music Group


Featured recording “Sing a Song of Basie”

Sing a Song of Basie

Verve Music Group (2001)
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