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Megan Kaes

Yes! I have always hated the distinction between singers and musicians, considering myself a member of both categories. I wish more educators realized that they have to build a foundation with vocalists just like instrumentalists--not only will it improve their own programs, it will help "singers" as an entity to move up in the world! Thanks for this!


P.S.: It was great to meet you last week!

Nada Christensen

Great website Duane :0) Nice to meet you last week, and I agree wholeheartedly ! I just finished my first "jazz cd" and my pianist did not like vocal improv.. he just wanted me to "sing the songs" ...Now that I've been to "scat school", the next project will be a different experience fer sure....


heh -- i understand why that piano player wanted you to deliver the songs rather than scat. he's been burned. most singers who try to scat either end up sounding like mel torme, or something far worse. (after all, torme could actually hit the notes.)

soooo. here's scat school: listen to ella. DON'T listen to torme. listen to louis armstrong. DON'T listen to anything by the manhattan transfer. listen to sarah vaughn. listen to wayne shorter.


elaborate...what's wrong with mel torme?


let's make this fun. do your best barry imitation: what *would* i say is wrong with mel torme?


(i'm not just being impish -- this is an interesting way to get you to express something critically that you might actually already have in there somewhere.)


well, i might guess that it has something to do with his frequent guest appearances on 'night court.'


ok, ok. i actually find torme's singing (and even scatting) quite compelling, primarily because of its melodic and lyric "flow." however, i might say that his solos tend to be a bit polished, contrived, and don't really swing. but that's me, not you.


barry replies:

you summed it up pretty well. i've never heard a torme scat that sounded improvised. to the contrary, i've heard many that i knew were not -- having another instrumentalist double you as you scat is a dead giveaway there. of course, torme isn't concerned with giving anything away, i don't think. he wouldn't mind everyone knowing his scatting wasn't improv.

but that's not all. it's also what you call the "polish" and lack of swing. i'm not sure how else to describe it either, though certainly duke ellington and mccoy tyner and sarah vaughn were polished.

maybe a better word is fastidiousness. he just seems to violate the spirit of jazz with that stuff.

not that not doing jazz is bad: beethoven isn't jazz. sinatra isn't jazz. and beethoven and sinatra are both really enjoyable to listen to, as is mel torme. in fact, i like quite a bit of torme's work ('swings shubert alley' is his best). but i'd never, ever tell a vocalist to listen to it in order to learn how to scat. it's so hard to get vocalists not to sound fastidious anyway, without them taking on bad role models.

....soooo. anyone done any listening to ella or sarah -- or wayne?

i'm telling you, get hold of an oscar peterson album like "sound of the trio" or "night train," or just good old miles davis "kind of blue," and sing along with *that.* replicate what each soloist is doing, try to do their licks with them.... then maybe go back and just do your own thing along with it. after a while, you'll tell you've started making progress when you find yourself making fun of diane schuur and the manhattan transfer.


one handy rule of thumb: if you're scatting and you find that you have actually used the syllable "dweeb," you're sending yourself a message.

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