All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Profiles

4

On Stage at JALC: Paul Jost

Suzanne Lorge By

Sign in to view read count
I want to connect—that's the main thing. I want to strike that chord that touches all of us. —Paul Jost
Paul Jost had already enjoyed a successful, decades-long career as a drummer, sideman, and leader when he decided to work solely as a jazz vocalist. Switching from player to vocalist mid-course is not a typical career path for a musician. But Jost's quick rise as a singer over the last six years—he sang at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola for the first time just a few weeks ago—is a testament to his innate talent, his precision as a musician, and his distinctive vocal sound.

In truth, Jost has always had a good ear for vocals. Even though drums were his chosen instrument (he studied the same at Berklee College of Music), he would sing on gigs and compose for the voice. These occasional forays into vocalizing led to his work as a studio singer—and a prolific one at that. Jost, with a burnished vocal timbre that rock stars would envy, has sung on or composed hundreds of jingles and songs. (Jost's "Book Faded Brown" is probably his most well-known tune, recorded by Carl Perkins in 1992 and Rick Danko and The Band in 1998.)

His unconventional path to singing gives him a 360-view of the art form. As musical director/drummer for venues like the Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City and esteemed artists like singers Morgana King, Mark Murphy, and Billy Eckstine, guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, and, most importantly, his friend pianist George Mesterhazy, he's learned what works across a variety of musical settings. But it's his innovative phrasing and expert sense of time as much as anything else that distinguish him as a jazz singer. He swings, but he also knows about pocket.

These skills in a vocalist make instrumentalists take notice. Vibraphonist Joe Locke, who'd heard about Jost from the singer's usual rhythm section (pianist Jim Ridl, bassist Dean Johnson, and drummer Tim Horner), came out to hear him at a gig in Red Bank, N.J. Locke was impressed, and the two talked extensively afterwards. Finding that both were slated to play the 2018 Xerox International Rochester Jazz Festival in upstate New York (June 22-30), Locke invited Jost to join him on a few tunes. But as a lead-in to that gig, Locke asked, could Jost perform as a guest artist during Locke's run at Dizzy's in April? Jost agreed.

For the Lincoln Center gig, Jost learned about five compositions from Locke's latest recording project, Subtle Disguise, among them the vibes player's tribute to his creative mentor Bobby Hutcherson, "Make Me Feel Like It's Raining." Locke usually plays an instrumental version of the melancholic ballad, but for Jost's guest turn at Dizzy's he provided lyrics; the vocal version, renamed "A Little More Each Day," was all the more poignant for Jost's meaningful interpretation of Locke's revelatory words. Equally moving was Jost's pathos-soaked interpretation of Blind Willie Johnson's, "Motherless Children," a 1920s blues tune that takes on added meaning in a modern setting.

In Jost Locke finds a vocalist who brings as much passion to his singing as Locke does to his playing. The sympathetic understanding between the two musicians was most apparent on compositions where Jost used vocalese rather than lyrics to express a melody, instrumental line, or improvisation. For instance, on Locke's "Red Cloud," inspired by the Sioux leader of the same name, Jost created a magnetic solo punctuated with shouts and calls as an overlay to Locke's rapid-fire mallet work. When it comes to vocal improv, it doesn't get much better than this.

Locke also asked Jost to perform from his own repertoire; he chose "Blues on the Corner," the McCoy Tyner composition that he recorded on his first solo jazz album, Breaking Through (Dot Time Records) in 2014, and two of his signature songs, "Caravan" and "If I Only Had A Brain." These tunes—all of which showcase Jost's effortless, impeccable scatting—benefit from his own whip-smart arrangements.

At the Rochester Jazz Fest on June 26 Jost and Locke will likely reprise several of the compositions they presented at Dizzy's. But the day before, June 25, is Jost's solo show with his own rhythm section and an opportunity for him to pull from any of his varied musical projects. Given the depth and breadth of Jost's range, the performance could contain anything from standards to vocal improv to spoken word to jazz covers of pop, rock, or country tunes—it's anyone's guess. Because aside from always-on performances, Jost is hardly a predictable singer.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Istanbul’s İKSV: An Intensity Beyond Cool Profiles
Istanbul’s İKSV: An Intensity Beyond Cool
by Arthur R George
Published: October 17, 2018
Read Don Suhor: From Dixieland to Bopsieland Profiles
Don Suhor: From Dixieland to Bopsieland
by Charles Suhor
Published: September 2, 2018
Read Aretha Franklin, The Lady Soul: 1942 - 2018 Profiles
Aretha Franklin, The Lady Soul: 1942 - 2018
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 17, 2018
Read Remembering Tomasz Stanko Profiles
Remembering Tomasz Stanko
by AAJ Staff
Published: July 29, 2018
Read SFJAZZ: Decades After, Five Years In Profiles
SFJAZZ: Decades After, Five Years In
by Arthur R George
Published: July 19, 2018
Read Kuumbwa And The Magic of Monday Night Profiles
Kuumbwa And The Magic of Monday Night
by Arthur R George
Published: July 2, 2018
Read "Jon Hendricks: Vocal Ease" Profiles Jon Hendricks: Vocal Ease
by Greg Thomas
Published: November 23, 2017
Read "SFJAZZ: Decades After, Five Years In" Profiles SFJAZZ: Decades After, Five Years In
by Arthur R George
Published: July 19, 2018
Read "Istanbul’s İKSV: An Intensity Beyond Cool" Profiles Istanbul’s İKSV: An Intensity Beyond Cool
by Arthur R George
Published: October 17, 2018
Read "Fabian Almazan: Environmental Action Figure" Profiles Fabian Almazan: Environmental Action Figure
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: January 9, 2018
Read "The Jazz Corner's Lois Masteller Makes It Happen" Profiles The Jazz Corner's Lois Masteller Makes It Happen
by Gloria Krolak
Published: February 21, 2018
Read "Mike Osborne: Force Of Nature - Part 1-2" Profiles Mike Osborne: Force Of Nature - Part 1-2
by Barry Witherden
Published: November 2, 2017