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.
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.