Snarky Puppy with Lilah Hathaway Jefferson Center Shaftman Hall Roanoke, VA March 8, 2013
Lalah Hathaway gave an exclusive master class type performance in vocalese exercises in a featured track from the latest release on funk-soul act Snarky Puppy, Family Dinner (Ropeadope 2013). Family Dinner was recorded on March 8, 2013 at Jefferson Center's Shaftman Hall in Roanoke, VA, where the band performed a premier recording concert before 100 invited guests.
The benefit show brought attention to the non-profit arts center and included appearances from Lalah Hathaway, N'Dambi, Lucy Woodward, and Chantae Cann, also Malika Tirolien, Magda Giannikou, Shayna Steele and Tony Scherr. Snarky Puppy has unveiled all "Family Dinner" tracks on YouTube.
One standout track is the band's rendition of "Something" featuring vocalist Lalah Hathaway. The classically trained vocalist, and daughter of soul legend Donny Hathaway, impresses all the way throughout her dynamite vocal performance, but something happens during a scat session around the 6:10 mark that really blows both the audience and the band's minds.
Hathaway actually creates a chord of multiple notes with her voice. The band and audience seem to ascend into the heavens as Lalah transcends vocal mythology. This groundbreaking performance is truly a distinctive art form. We refer to this dramatic art form as "harmonic singing."
Vocalists are usually taught traditional vocalise whereas a performer sings syllables or other meaningless vocal sounds rather than a text to different musical pitches for singing or training the ear, as in solfeggio.
Harmonic singing is basically singing one rather low note and then use a resonance in the vocal tract to enhance the production of just one high harmonic of the low note. When it is much stronger than nearby harmonics, we notice it as a separate note.
How vocalists make this achievement is quite complex. One way to strengthen the second resonance, at the expense of the others, is to make a small mouth opening and also a relatively tight constriction between the tongue and the roof of the mouth. However, it requires a lot of practice.
In traditional practice, some singers hold the fundamental pitch constant, and then tune the vocal tract resonances to choose one or another harmonic. They can therefore play the 'instrument' using the natural harmonics, similar to brass or woodwind players.
Skilled practitioners can vary the voice pitch and the resonant frequency independently. For instance, the fundamental has been lowered and the resonance has been raised, with the result that it is the twelfth harmonic, is amplified. Truly, this performance was noteworthy and illustrious.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.