No Song is Safe From Us

No Song Is Safe From Us - The NYFOS Blog
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After I finally accepted the fact that I had no future as a rock singer, I switched to jazz, which is a bit easier on the voice. I am still very nostalgic for this period of my life. I was like a kid in a candy store and couldn’t get enough of discovering new artists, especially singers—female, preferably.  My on-the-job training began when I joined Pieces of Dreams, a popular jazz group based in Kalamazoo, MI. I was the only singer, and I played alto sax and flute on certain arrangements. All of the guys were amazing musicians, and in this newbie they found an eager pupil!

The jazz vocal trio, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross were true trailblazers during their career in the 50s and 60s.  What began with groups like the Andrews Sisters in the 40s was taken to new places by this amazing trio.  All three were incredible singers and fearlessly creative in using the voice in what is known as straight ahead jazz.  Just as jazz instrumentalists study other players’ solos, LH&R transcribed solos by the great players and then cleverly added lyrics, a technique which became known as “vocalese”.  Combined with their mind-blowing arrangements, these recordings have become classics.

It was difficult to select just one song from their collection, and every time I closed in on one, another would call out to me. I finally decided on “Twisted”, a song written by and featuring Scottish singer Annie Ross—she is AWESOME, in the true sense of the term. The melody is a transcribed sax solo recorded in 1949 by Wardell Gray. The words are by Annie and the song was included on their first record in 1952. Listen to her sing in the cracks and all around the beat! And her amazing flexibility and precision! Truly virtuosic. One of my other favorite artists, Joni Mitchell, covered “Twisted” on her Court and Spark album. More about her later…

Sidebar: After I had written the above I read that Jon Hendricks died on November 21, 2017 at age 96—may he rest in peace.  Dave Lambert died in a car crash in 1966, but as of this writing, Annie lives on.

Karen Holvik

Soprano Karen Holvik began her musical life in folk music, wishing she could be Joan Baez. She later spent ten years singing rock and jazz professionally before deciding to try the classical repertoire. After earning a master’s degree in vocal performance at the Eastman School of Music (where she also sang jazz), she settled in NYC and finally got serious about singing opera, oratorio and classical song. She was very active with NYFOS during its early years, and she appears on a NYFOS cd, Marc Blitzstein: Zipperfly & Other Songs with Steven Blier and baritone William Sharp. She now lives in Boston, where she is chair of the voice department at the New England Conservatory.

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