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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Vocal acrobatics

Sometimes it is said that the human voice is the most beautiful musical instrument, a statement that I can adhere to, although often not in a jazz context, especially not the male voice, but that's a question of subjective appreciation. In avant-garde jazz, vocal acrobatics tend to be way "out there", bordering on the ridiculous or the silly, interesting endeavors to use the voice differently, but often not going beyond some stylistic exercises, as one might get as a classroom task, rather than using the voice as the instrument to share heart-felt emotions.

That being said, if new vocal albums are released, I still want to share this information with you, who may be interested. Leo Records has in any case made it one of its key focuses lately. So here are the most worthwhile to look out for. 

Veronique Dubois / François Carrier - Being With (Leo Records, 2010)

Regular readers know my appreciation for Canadian saxophonist François Carrier, who manages to remain quite lyrical even in his most adventurous journeys. Here he is joined by Véronique Dubois, Canadian avant-garde singer. The whole album is a wonderful dance of two voices, interacting, responding, merging, pushing each other forward into new regions of sound. It has something bird-like at times, singing high in the trees, in a language you can't really fathom but because of the interplay you assume it has meaning, and even if it doesn't, it sounds like two voices singing out their joy, and sharing emotional content. Dubois' voice is very avant, ranging for grunts and shouts to high-pierced vocalisations, Carrier is versatile enough to find the same voice on his instruments. 

Triangulation - Whirligigs (Leo Records, 2010)

The most unusual and my favorite in this list is "Whirligigs", and then in the vocal region I usually like the least : the male voice. The vocals are Bruno Amstad's, a German singer and vocal performer. The rest of the band is Christy Doran on guitars, Patrice Heral on percussion, and John Wolf Brennan piano and harmonium. It's hard to call this music jazz, and it's hard to call it anything but stunning. You can call it tribal, ethnic, trance-music, it is a rhythmic fest with hypnotic percussive and vocal overdubs, with eery guitar and piano chords and subtle emphasis adding great depth. It is dramatic, theatrical, bombastic, a weird sonic universe, which defies categorisation. An unbelievable listening experience.

Sainkho Namchylak / Nick Sudnick - Not Quite Songs (Leo Records, 2010)

Tuvan singer Sainkho Namchylak is accompanied by Nick Sudnick, a Russian musician who only plays on self-built instruments. Namchylak's acrobatics are possibly the most expansive of all vocalists on this list, from low grunts to child-like lullabies to the typical Tuvan overtone singing. An acquired taste. Sudnick's instruments sound fantastic, whatever they are.

Kihnoua - Unauthorized Caprices (NotTwo Records, 2010)

On this great album by the band Kihnoua, the vocal part is performed by Dohee Lee, a Korean dancer and singer. The rest of the band consists of Larry Ochs on sopranino and tenor saxophones, Scott Amendola on drums and electronics, Liz Allbee on trumpet and electronics, Joan Jeanrenaud on cello, and Fred Frith on guitar (on one track). Lee's singing is something special, quite Asian in its scales and articulation, bordering between singing and reciting for No theater. Like on the Dubois/Carrier album, we also get a duet between sax and voice. On "Weightless", Amendola joins on drums. Lee's most beautiful singing can be heard on the last track "Less Than A Wind". I wish she would have sung like this on the whole album.

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© stef


Anonymous said...

Liz Allbee's solo work is super stuff as well! Samples are at