The Philosophy of Jazz Vocal and Performance Etiquette
Instructor: Veronica Nunn
What is a jazz singer? Does being a jazz singer mean perusing the Real Book and selecting a jazz standard to sing? Or is it the ability to improvise using made–up, substitute nonsense syllables for the words of the song in order to sound like a musical instrument (often referred to as "scatting")? True, there have been specific songs associated with various jazz vocalists and musicians and yes, there have been vocalists both past and present who have exhibited brilliant scatting technique. But what exactly defines a vocalist as a jazz singer?
I believe the definition of a jazz singer doesn’t rest exclusively upon one’s ability to scat or to select a jazz standard, but instead is based on the way one hears and approaches the music both technically and emotionally. The jazz vocalist approaches music through the jazz experience.
Singing jazz basically requires two things: Technique and Style. Technique is external and involves the mechanics of the voice (pitch and accuracy, tone quality and control, breathing, vocal range etc.). Style is internal and uses technique to convey the singer’s interpretive impressions (emotions, imagination, and an organic unfolding which creates a unique sound and personal stamp).
By successfully combining the two, the vocalist creates an experience that simultaneously draws the audience and moves musicians into a world where musical dialogue begins. In other words: It’s storytelling time. This is the jazz experience.
But how do vocalists and other musicians draw the audience in, inviting them to participate and listen to their story? The answer is performance etiquette.
Etiquette is the set of written and unwritten rules of conduct that delineate expectations for social behavior according to contemporary norms within a group or society. Since etiquette is a topic that has occupied writers and thinkers in all sophisticated societies for millennia, it's reasonable to believe that there is such thing, as performance etiquette and that there are specific rules of conduct when taking a stage.
We will be exploring these rules, as well as beginning and advanced jazz vocal techniques—applying them all in a live performance setting.
This will be an active participatory workshop devoted to the execution of vocal technique inside the complete performance arena.
Register for the July Vocal Jazz Workshop