A history of Jazz Music

by Piero Scaruffi
See also the The History of Rock Music and the The History of Pop Music
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(These are excerpts from my book "A History of Jazz Music")

Free jazz: free Vocals

The voice was the ultimate instrument of free-jazz, although its importance was initially downplayed. It was free jazz that allowed the human voice to stand up as the powerful, expressive device that it is.


Iowa-born white vocalist Patty Waters, who relocated first to Los Angeles and then to New York, pioneered the creative vocal improvisation of free jazz and represented the connection between free jazz and the singer-songwriter of rock music. Sings (december 1965), containing eight brief, spare piano ballads (notably Moon Don't Come up Tonight) and the 14-minute interpretation of the traditional Black is the Colour of my True Love's Hair, a showcase of her wordless vocal acrobatics (backed by piano, bass and drums). That art of unorthodox vocal noises and atonal stream of consciousness permeated College Tour (april 1966), featuring pianists Ran Blake and Burton Greene and containing the seven-minute Song Of The One and Hush Little Baby. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.


Jeanne Lee met pianist Ran Blake at college and they began to improvise together on The Newest Sound Around (november 1961) Relocating to Europe in 1967, she joined Gunter Hampel's ensemble and provided vocals for his albums between 1968 and 1983. Familie (april 1972), for example, contained only one 55-minute improvisation for Jeanne Lee, Gunter Hampel (vibraphone, bass clarinet, flute, piano, soprano saxophone) and Anthony Braxton (alto saxophone, clarinets, flute), while Waltz for 3 Universes in a Corridor (june 1972) contained Waltz for 3 Universes in a Corridor and Galaxie Sun Dance for Hampel, Lee and violinist Toni Marcus. She was also featured on masterpieces of the era such as Archie Shepp's Blase (august 1969), Marion Brown's Afternoon Of A Georgia Faun (1970), Carla Bley's Escalator Over the Hill (1971). Her first album as a leader, Conspiracy (may 1974), featuring Gunter Hampel (on clarinets, vibraphone, flute and piano), Sam Rivers (on saxophones and flute), bassist Jack Gregg, drummer Steve McCall, three clarinetists and a trombonist, expanded the jazz vocabulary with elements borrowed from Tibet and India, inspired by Peruvian vocalist Yma Sumac, taking advantage not only of the voice but also of lip and throat sounds. Freedom Of The Universe (june 1978) was a duet with Hampel that contained another lengthy meditation. Their most ambitious collaboration was perhaps the double-LP Oasis (july 1978). A trio with drummer Andrew Cyrille and alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons yielded Nuba (july 1979). Vocal Summit was a quintet of vocalists formed with Jay Clayton, Ursula Dudziak, Bobby McFerrin and Lauren Newton that recorded Sorrow Is Not Forever (november 1982). Going Through (1984), credited to Going Through, was one extended piece with violinist Billy Bang, tenor saxophonist Frank Lowe, bassist William Parker and two percussionists.

After You Stepped Out Of A Cloud (august 1989), her second collaboration with Blake, she recorded her second and last solo, Natural Affinities (july 1992), on which she was matched her with the likes of bassist Dave Holland, pianist Amina Claudine Myers, trumpeter Leo Smith, guitarist Jerome Harris, Hampel, etc.
She also composed the jazz opera La Conference Des Oiseaux, the oratorio Prayer For Our Time and the five-part suite Emergence. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.


Another powerful free vocalist blossomed in Poland, although relocated to New York (and married to Michal Urbaniak): Urszula Dudziak debuted as a leader with the album Newborn Light (november 1972), a tour de force of electronically-processed scat. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.


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TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi. All rights reserved.