Jazz at 100 Hour 57: Jazz Singers in the 1960s

Betty Carter

The 1960s featured many recordings by highly musical singers in the company of great jazz instrumentalists. In this hour of Jazz at 100, we will survey the 1960’s recordings of jazz singers Betty Carter, Eddie Jefferson, Sheila Jordan, Nancy Wilson, Shirley Horn, Carmen McRae, Jon Hendricks and Johnny Hartman.

Betty Carter.
“What draws one to [Betty Carter’s] singing is her sound – from the light, disarming naiveté of her upper register and the bluesy matter-of-factness of her middle register to what Gary Giddins calls the ‘provocatively intimate’ quality of her low notes. Her 1965 version of ‘This Is Always’ … illustrates this range of qualities. It is a masterpiece of invention and of the virtuoso jazz singer’s ability to paint in sound using a wide brush. It is a special pleasure to listen to Carter … use what she knows as a modernist improviser, not to bop or romp but to slow-simmer a late-night ballad. She does bop the song, mind you, but here the verb to bop means to swing easy in a half speed, slow-dance mode.” – Robert O’Meally from the notes to The Jazz Singers

“She quickly transcended the ‘bop vocalist’ tag and created a style that combined the fluent, improvisational grace of an alto saxophone with an uncanny accuracy of diction. Even when her weighting of a lyric is almost surreal, its significance is utterly explicit and sarcastically subversive. The latter quality has allowed her to skate on the thin ice of quite banal standard material, much of which has acquired a veneer of seriousness from nowadays being heard only as instrumentals…”- Brian Morton & Richard Cook

This is Always. Betty Carter Quartet
(Harold Mabern-p, Bob Cranshaw-b, Roy McCurdy-d, Betty Carter-voc). From Inside Betty Carter. 4/1964 (The Jazz Singers)

I Only Have Eyes For You. Betty Carter Quartet
(Norman Simmons-p, Lisle Atkinson-b, Al Harewood-d, Betty Carter-voc). From Finally. 12/6/1969

Eddie Jefferson.
“[Eddie Jefferson’s] longest-standing partnership with saxophonist Moody was rekindled in the ’60s when Jefferson, who had been eclipsed by smoother talents like Jon Hendricks, staged something of a comeback. He made a few good records during the decade… ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ is one of the highlights of [the LP] Body And Soul, alongside a lively version of Miles’s ‘So What’. There’s still a certain resistance to vocalese – even fans who have overcome a suspicion of scat singing draw a line – but Jefferson’s musicianship is palpable on every track and his buoyant delivery pushes through some slightly questionable lyrics. – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy. Eddie Jefferson Sextet
(Dave Burns-tp, James Moody-ts/fl, Barry Harris-p, Steve Davis-b, Bill English-d, Eddie Jefferson-voc). From Body and Soul. 9/27/1968

So What. Eddie Jefferson Sextet
(Dave Burns-tp, James Moody-ts/fl, Barry Harris-p, Steve Davis-b, Bill English-d, Eddie Jefferson-voc). From Body and Soul. 9/27/1968

Sheila Jordan.
“Like the truly great instrumentalists, she is content to explore the potential of the middle register, where words are more likely to remain intact, rather than over-reach her range. At the end of phrases, she deploys a superbly controlled vibrato. On [the LP Portrait of Sheila Jordan]… Bobby Timmons’s ‘Dat Dere’ is given just to voice and bass (and [bassist Steve] Swallow is superb), … while ‘Hum Drum Blues’ [is] set against rhythm only, as if she were a horn.”– Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Dat Dere. Sheila Jordan – Steve Swallow duo
(Steve Swallow-b, Sheila Jordan-voc). From Portrait of Sheila. 9/19/1962

Hum Drum Blues. Sheila Jordan Trio
(Steve Swallow-b, Denzil Best-d, Sheila Jordan-voc). From Portrait of Sheila. 10/12/1962

Nancy Wilson.
“This exquisite reading of ‘Save Your Love For Me’ comes from a celebrated record date that teamed the twenty-four year old singer with [Cannonball] Adderley for a session of jazz with no interference from hack string arrangers or … commercial songwriters… [Nancy Wilson said] ‘We wanted a happy, romping sound. It would be Cannonball’s quintet with me filling in as a sort of easy-going third horn on some nice songs that haven’t already been heard to death on records.’ The arrangement here is tasteful and unobtrusive; it makes way for soloists in swinging combination. Her voice has the radiant energy for which she is loved, and she is perfectly matched by the muted Nat Adderley and by Cannonball’s eloquent alto, with which she engages in confidential night-talk in the language of jazz.” – Robert O’Meally from the notes to The Jazz Singers

Save Your Love For Me. Nancy Wilson with Cannonball Adderley Quintet
(Nat Adderley-cor, Cannonball Adderley-as, Joe Zawinul-p, Sam Jones-b, Louis Hayes-d, Nancy Wilson-voc). From Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley. 6/27-29/1961 (The Jazz Singers)

Never Will I Marry. Nancy Wilson with Cannonball Adderley Quintet
(Nat Adderley-cor, Cannonball Adderley-as, Joe Zawinul-p, Sam Jones-b, Louis Hayes-d, Nancy Wilson-voc). From Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley. 6/27-29/1961

Shirley Horn.
Just as Cannonball Adderley recognized and sponsored Nancy Wilson’s talent, Miles Davis heard a familiar musical approach in the singing of Shirley Horn, who he brought in as his opening act at the Village Vanguard. “She handles the song [‘Travelin’ Light’] with cool authority. Her voice has a blue, low-embers incandescence, as if this one were made in a darkened studio… As James Garvin has observed, her voice has ‘all the sultriness and concentrated intensity of Miles Davis, Her vocal improvisations are few; Horn’s brand of singing relies on her manipulations of time, her ability to swing, and the interplay between her voice and her spare, funky piano. For her, spaces, pauses and sighs speak just as eloquently as notes and chords.’” – Robert O’Meally in the notes to The Jazz Singers

Travelin’ Light. Shirley Horn Septet
(Joe Newman-tp, Frank Wess-fl/as, Jerome Richardson-ts/fl, Kenny Burrell-g, Marshall Hawkins-b, Bernard Sweetney-d, Shirley Horn-voc). From Travelin’ Light. 2/9/1965 (The Jazz Singers)

Carmen McRae.
“There’s always a tigerish feel to her best vocals – no woman has ever sung in the jazz idiom with quite such beguiling surliness as McRae, and because she never had the pipes of an Ella or Sassie, she did have to rely on that sheer force of character to put a song across… [In her Billie Holiday collection, the] deft arrangements are by the often undersung Norman Simmons, and [cornetist Nat] Adderley and [tenor saxophonist Eddie] Lockjaw Davis take on the [roles played by] Harry Edison and Ben Webster [in the original sessions]. Though she follows Holiday’s manner almost to the letter on some songs, notably ‘Them There Eyes’ …, this is all Carmen McRae. She is quite imperious on ‘Yesterdays’…. The musicians play superbly alongside her.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Them There Eyes. Carmen McRae Septet
(Nat Adderley-tp, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis-ts, Norman Simmons-p, Mundell Lowe-g, Bob Cranshaw-b, Walter Perkins-d, Carmen McRae-voc). From Carmen McRae Sings Lover Man And Other Billie Holiday Classics. 6/29/1961

Yesterdays. Carmen McRae Septet
(Nat Adderley-tp, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis-ts, Norman Simmons-p, Mundell Lowe-g, Bob Cranshaw-b, Walter Perkins-d, Carmen McRae-voc). From Carmen McRae Sings Lover Man And Other Billie Holiday Classics. 6/29/1961

Jon Hendricks and Johnny Hartman.
Neither Thelonious Monk nor John Coltrane recorded often with vocalists, however there were meaningful exceptions in the 1960s. In 1968, Monk teamed up with Jon Hendricks to record ‘In Walked Bud,’ his Bud Powell tribute first recorded for Blue Note in 1947. In this case, Hendricks has added lyrics celebrating the players in the nightclub scene of the 1940s and 1950s.

In 1961, John Coltrane moved from Atlantic Records, to the newly established Impulse!. As part of producer Bob Thiel’s management of John Coltrane’s output on Impulse!, he pointed Trane to more mainstream studio pursuits, to complement his increasingly adventurous live explorations. In addition to a set of ballads and a collaboration with Duke Ellington, Trane recorded an LP with singer Johnny Hartman, which included their take on Billy Strayhorn’s ‘Lush Life’. “This version by Johnny Hartman is as canonical as the composition itself. Somehow the singer’s dark satin baritone, matched by John Coltrane at his lyrical best, perfectly suits the late-show feeling of the words and musical structures. A.B. Spellman has called Hartman’s singing here ‘pure communication,’ adding that he glides through the difficult changes of a very wordy song with an ease of expression that pulls every nuance from it with no ostentation whatever. Coltrane’s solo, says Spellman, may be read as ‘a double-timed commentary on what Hartman’s just said.’” – Robert O’Meally from the notes to The Jazz Singers

In Walked Bud. Thelonious Monk Trio with Jon Hendricks
(Thelonious Monk-p, Larry Gales-b, Ben Riley-d, Jon Hendricks-voc). From Underground. 2/14/1968

Lush Life. Johnny Hartman with John Coltrane Quartet
(John Coltrane-ts, McCoy Tyner-p, Jimmy Garrison-b, Elvin Jones-d, Johnny Hartman-voc). From John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman. 3/7/1963 (The Jazz Singers)

Duke Ellington and Benny Carter, whose careers stretched back to the 1920s continued to be vital musical presences in the 1960s. In the next hour we will hear examples of their late career work and that of two veteran Ellingtonians, alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges and tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves. Swing giants in the 1960s in the next hour of Jazz at 100.

Recordings.
The Jazz Singers – A Smithsonian Collection. Sony Music RD 113.
Betty Carter. Finally. Roulette CDP 7953332
Eddie Jefferson. Body and Soul. Prestige PR 7619
Sheila Jordan. Portrait of Sheila. Blue Note BLP 9002
Carmen McRae. Lover Man. Columbia CS 8530
Thelonious Monk. Underground. Columbia CS 9632
John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. Impulse A 40

Resources.
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Betty Carter. Finally
Eddie Jefferson. Body and Soul
Sheila Jordan. Portrait of Sheila
Carmen McRae. Lover Man
Thelonious Monk. Underground

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