Vocalese  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Vocalese (also simply known as "singing") is a style or genre of jazz singing wherein lyrics are written for melodies that were originally part of an all-instrumental composition or improvisation. Whereas scat singing uses improvised nonsense syllables (bap ba doo dweeba da habba da bop da dop) in solos, vocalese uses lyrics, either improvised or set to pre-existing instrumental solos. The word "vocalese" is a play on the musical term "vocalise" and the suffix "-ese", meant to indicate a sort of language.

The inventor and most prolific practitioner of vocalese was Eddie Jefferson, whose rendition of Coleman Hawkins's "Body and Soul" became a hit on its own. Pioneers of vocalese include King Pleasure and Babs Gonzales, Jefferson's former dance partner. The best-known practitioners are probably Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, which was made up of Jon Hendricks, Dave Lambert and Annie Ross. Ross's 1952 lyrics for the song "Twisted", a blues improvisation by saxophonist Wardell Gray, are considered a classic of the genre. Other performers known for vocalese include Bob Dorough, Giacomo Gates[1], Kurt Elling, Al Jarreau, and The Manhattan Transfer, with their Grammy-winning version of Weather Report's "Birdland (jazz composition)" set to lyrics by Jon Hendricks.

Some performers, notably Slim Gaillard, Harry Gibson, Cab Calloway and Leo Watson, combine vocalese improvisations with scat singing.

Most vocalese lyrics are entirely syllabic, as opposed to melismatic. This may lead to the use of many words sung quickly in a given phrase, especially in the case of bebop.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Vocalese" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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