Kim Nazarian, Peter Eldridge, Darmon Meader and Caprice Fox-classmates at Ithaca College-officially hatched New York Voices in 1988 while still in their 20s, joined by Sara Krieger to complete the original quintet. There have since been only two personnel changes. Krieger departed in 1992, replaced by Berklee grad Lauren Kinhan. Fox’s exit followed two years later, and the group became the quartet now known worldwide. Last year, they celebrated their 25th anniversary with two firsts: a live album, New York Voices Live With the WDR Big Band Cologne (Palmetto) and a Christmas album, Let It Snow (12th Street).
For as long as they’ve been singing, the Voices have, both individually and collectively, maintained parallel careers as music educators, presenting and participating in workshops and adjudicating jazz programs across North America and Europe. In 2009, Nazarian’s dream of establishing the group’s own vocal program was realized with the establishment of the New York Voices Vocal Jazz Camp, presented each summer on the campus of Bowling Green State University in Ohio. This past August, the camp celebrated its sixth year with the highest registration to date, a total of 77 campers and auditors, ranging from teens to octogenarians, including participants from as far away as Portugal and Japan. Toward the end of the weeklong session, the camp’s entire student body gathered inside a BGSU auditorium to watch the Voices participate in their first Before & After for JazzTimes.
1. Bill Henderson With the Oscar Peterson Trio
“Wild Is Love” (from Bill Henderson With the Oscar Peterson Trio, MGM). Henderson, vocals; Peterson, piano; Ray Brown, bass; Ed Thigpen, drums. Recorded in 1963.
Darmon Meader: I think we’re officially stumped on this. We’re shooting around it. It sounds like a tenor-y version of Lou Rawls or Joe Williams. We’re not finding it.
Lauren Kinhan: Is it a piano player who’s accompanying himself?
Kim Nazarian: Wow! We were wondering if the piano player was the singer because the piano was so prevalent in that recording. Beautiful. I was engaged from the very beginning, from the first lick.
Peter Eldridge: There’s an instrumental reedy sound from the vocalist [and] a great sense of space in his performance.
Meader: It’s very conversational but super present. It’s a really powerful voice. Peter and I, in our teaching, continue to compile lists for our students to expand beyond the top 20 vocalists that everybody knows, and we now have a new one to add.
2. The Double Six of Paris
“A Night in Tunisia” (from Swingin’ Singin’!, Philips).
The Double Six of Paris (Mimi Perrin, leader), vocals. Recorded in 1960-61.
Meader: It’s the Double Six of Paris. It’s so interesting when they’re doing vocalese, because it’s in French and I don’t speak French,
so it ends up feeling like a scat solo.
Eldridge: Or more like an instrumental.
Kinhan: That’s what I was struck by. Everybody sounded like an instrument, and it felt so connected to the instrumental world.
Nazarian: From the first hit, it’s so magical, and you want to hear the rest of it.
Eldridge: And it’s super even; the voices are so even from top to bottom.
Meader: Is it based on a specific recording by an instrumentalist? Our guess was [the tune’s co-composer] Dizzy Gillespie, but that doesn’t sound like a Dizzy recording we know.
On Swingin’ Singin’! this track is dedicated to trombonist J.J. Johnson, and based on his 1956 arrangement of “A Night in Tunisia” for Jay and Kai + 6.
3. Rebecca Kilgore & Dave Frishberg
“The Lady’s in Love With You” (from Why Fight the Feeling? Songs by Frank Loesser, Arbors). Kilgore, vocals; Frishberg, piano. Recorded in 2008.
Meader: [the four Voices huddle and compare notes] We’re doing a good job of guessing everyone it’s not.
Nazarian: Is the pianist Randy Porter?
Kinhan: [Kilgore and Frishberg] are one and the same. He’s grooving, and they’re swinging so hard. And they’re so tasty.
Nazarian: For me it’s a taste of history. You hear that stride piano. They’ve done their homework.
Meader: She has such great placement. It feels very relaxed and not over-sung, but everything is absolutely accurate. It’s just so there.
4. Rosemary Clooney & the Hi-Lo’s
“How About You” (from Ring Around Rosie, Columbia). Clooney and the Hi-Lo’s (Clark Burroughs, Bob Morse, Gene Puerling, Bob Strasen), vocals; with orchestra under the direction of Frank Comstock. Recorded in 1957.
Eldridge: We know this one. It’s Rosemary Clooney and the Hi-Lo’s. I know Rosemary Clooney is regarded as one of the great singers, but I still don’t think she’s well known enough. There’s so much heart in that sound. She’s swinging, and makes it sound easier than it is. And I just love her on top of their sound. It’s so rockin’ great.
Kinhan: She’s one of those singers that really help you hear the lyric. She’s a master at it.
Meader: The Hi-Lo’s walk back and forth between this hilarious line of being super hip and super campy. It’s so entertaining to hear them bounce back and forth. And their sound is so happy.
Kinhan: I like the way that they’re really committed. They’re on point with everything they’re doing. There’s so much thought put into every detail of that chart. Nothing is phoned in.
5. Mark Winkler
“Lemon Twist” (from Sings Bobby Troup, Rhombus). Winkler,
vocals; Anthony Wilson, guitar, arrangement; Joe Bagg, Hammond B-3; Mark Ferber, drums. Recorded in 2002.
Meader: I’m sure I’m going to know as soon as you say the name.
Nazarian: Oh my gosh, I just saw him! The band is so happening. The instrumental stuff is, for me, as much ear candy as the vocalist. I just wanted to keep hearing their solos.
Kinhan: I like the way he articulated the lyric with the triplet. I love the humanity in it, too. It wasn’t perfect, thank goodness; snore city, if everything’s perfection. It felt easy and swingin’ and right.
Meader: It’s interesting to hear a voice, especially of that range, lay into a guitar accompaniment rather than piano.
Eldridge: A male vocalist sits right in the bed of the piano. You’re sitting in the belly of the beast. But guitar is wonderfully transparent, and organ too.
6. Dee Alexander
“Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise” (from Songs My Mother Loves, Blujazz). Alexander, vocals; Miguel de la Cerna, piano; Harrison Bankhead, bass; Ernie Adams, drums and percussion. Recorded in 2013.
Eldridge: It sounds like a hybrid of Dee Dee Bridgewater and Dianne Reeves.
Meader: Is it Dee Daniels?
Eldridge: I loved the fadeout. There were so many great things she was doing. The ending was really strong.
Nazarian: I love the arrangement. And I love the contrast of what’s going on in the band with the lyric, but she still maintains the line, and her chops are flawless, her ears are incredible. She’s a force to be reckoned with.
Meader: Really well-placed moments of tension and extra color.
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