The roots of jazz music were very much vocal, with field hollers and ceremonial chants, but while the blues maintained a strong vocal tradition, with singers such as Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith heavily influencing the progress of American popular music in general, early jazz bands only featured vocalists periodically, albeit those with a more "bluesy" tone of voice; one of the first "jazz" recordings, the 1917 Original Dixieland Jass Band recordings featured one Sarah Martin as vocalist.
It was Louis Armstrong who established singing as a distinct art form in jazz, realising that a singer could improvise in the same manner as an instrumentalist, and along with American vocalist Adelaide Hall they established scat singing as a central pillar of the jazz vocal art.
The entrance of Billie Holiday into the world of jazz singing in the early 1930s was a revelation. She approached the voice from a radical angle, explaining, in her own words,"I don't feel like I'm singing, I feel like I'm playing the horn." Compared to other great jazz singers, Holiday had a rather limited vocal range of just over an octave. Where Holiday's genius lay, however, was to compensate for this shortcoming, with impeccable timing, nuanced phrasing, and emotional immediacy, qualities admired by a young Frank Sinatra.
With the end of prohibition in the United States, a more "danceable" form of jazz music arose, giving birth to the Swing era, and with it big bands such as those led by Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmie Lunceford, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw and Chick Webb. Many of the great post war jazz singers sang with these bands in the infancy of their careers.
With the end of the Swing era, the great touring Big bands of the past decade were no longer a viable option, and the demise of the typical big band singer was further complicated by the advent of be-bop as a creative force in jazz. The rise of be-bop saw a new style of jazz singer, one who could match instrumentalists for sheer technical skill, and this was evident in Ella Fitzgerald's rise to fame, the art of jazz singing was elevated to even higher rankings, allowing the notion of "free voice" to exist, giving instrumental qualities to the voice through timbres, registers and tessitura.
This 44 track compilation showcases the cream of the jazz vocalists from the 30s, 40s and 50s including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Ivie Anderson, Bing Crosby, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee and many more........