Various Artists

Jazz Voice [Knitting Factory]

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Among other things, the 1997 Texaco New York Jazz Festival was the occasion for the release of this compilation of vocal jazz artists singing in a variety of styles and deliveries. The cuts are from already issued material from a variety of labels. Irrespective of the source, the result is a smorgasbord of jazz vocalizing by top flight practitioners of mediums represented on the album. The play bill includes a straightforward swinging version of "Doncha Go 'Way Mad" by Deborah Harry and rocker Elvis Costello, who does well in the swing medium. The cut featuring Abbey Lincoln is intriguing with Savion Glover's tap dancing accompanying Lincoln and in a duet with Michael Bowie's bass. The avant-garde approach to singing is well delineated here, as one would expect from Knitting Factory Works. Lo Galluccio sings "You Go to My Head" like a lament with little reference to the melody, pulling it off without pretension. A disappointment in a sense is the calm, "normal" rendition of "Prelude to a Kiss" by a pioneer of the avant-garde, Norma Winstone. Even the Mingus Big Band is not its usually rambunctious self on "Baby Take a Chance With Me," with an uncredited Frank Lacy vocal. Thomas Chapin recalls days when coffee houses hosted jazz poetry, as Vernon Frazer recites, not sings, around Chapin's flute his allegorical "Put Your Quarter in and Watch the Chicken Dance." The finale is a 1920s recording of "Everybody's Talking About Sammy." It's not clear whether this oldie was included as tongue in cheek or to remind all of the antecedents of the jazz vocalizing. Whatever -- it's an attractive diversion from the heavier stuff. Because the tracks were recorded under different circumstances, adjustments in audio will have to be made for each track.

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