Book Review:Vocal Complete: Female Voice Jazz Standards

In my 26 years of performing, I’ve had my share of successful (and horrifying) auditions. Little is as soul-crushingly terrifying as standing alone in front of a table full of people and opening your mouth to sing. When you forget the lyrics (did that), practiced the song in the wrong key (did that), or realize that you really don’t know the song very well (oh yes), you leave the audition with the inevitable haunted feeling that you could have done better.

 The new release from Alfred Publishing, Vocal Complete: Female Voice Jazz Standards, aims to eliminate all that stress. Alfred Publishing is a venerable music publishing company, but this book is far superior to their other songbooks currently in my library.

First, the song selection is distinctly superior and specifically tailored to female vocals (there is a male version as well), with 16 classic jazz standards such as Anything Goes, At Last, and Embraceable You. The sheet music is clear and easy to read, also easy to photocopy. Chords are provided for guitar accompaniment and lyric sheets are provided for those who cannot read sheet music.

Each song has two versions: a performance track for learning and an instrumental track for singing along. If you perform live, it’s great to have the option to sing with a CD. Most auditions, however, require you to bring sheet music for their pianist. This book/CD set allows you to arrive fully prepared and confident to sing.

The orchestration for the instrumentals is fully orchestrated, with a real jazz pianist. The vocalists on the CDs are believable with songs popularized by legendary singers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Barbra Streisand. The coolest new feature was the Tune N’ Tempo Changer – on computer, you can customize the key and tempo of each playback track to suit your voice.

The sheet music does match the key of the backing track, which eliminates one long-standing problem for performers: if you can find a recording of the song, it’s often adjusted in key for the singer and does not reflect the original key. Thus, my disastrous audition where I had prepared my song two full steps lower than the sheet music… if only I’d had this book then!
If you love performing classic jazz standards, you need to have this book in your music bag. I know I’ll be using it for my next audition.

 Track Listing:
* Anything Goes * At Last * Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered * Cry Me a River * Don’t Rain on My Parade * Dream a Little Dream of Me * Embraceable You * I Get a Kick Out of You * Misty * My Funny Valentine * Over the Rainbow * Someone to Watch Over Me * Summertime * They Can’t Take That Away From Me * Whatever Lola Wants * When I Fall in Love

Article first published as Book Review:Vocal Complete: Female Voice Jazz Standards by Alfred Publishing on Blogcritics.

A Tribute to My Muse

Tonight, I think of my Muse.

When I first saw her in the gallery, I was startled; she was so…throat-catchingly beautiful. I had seen photographs, but nothing had prepared me for the sight. It was like being struck. I was walking and I had to stop. I felt a tear slip down my cheek. She was me and yet not me. She was the me I wanted to be – serene, graceful, and entirely still…poised for the next moment.

I told myself for weeks that I couldn’t have her and grew more and more miserable as she continued to sell, moved to grace the homes and lives of others. So few and slipping away. I looked at the massive price on her and thought it a bargain, knew I would pay twice that (I, who could not afford once that).

Still, I didn’t allow myself even to hope. Every time I passed her in the gallery, I stroked a cool bronze cheek, traced the fine grooves of her hair. It became a running joke how I would hug her as I walked by. It was irresistible; I couldn’t help it. I was in love. I was Pygmalion, with a Galatea that did not have to become real to be loved, but who would very shortly not even be within sight.

And then only two weeks later, in Paris of all places (because all beautiful and solemn events happen in Paris), I am walking down the Boulevard de Picpus with my father on a sunny late June morning. We walk aimlessly, stroll past the boulangerie, the patisserie, fish and croissants and fruit so lush and gorgeous that you want to stop and take a picture of it. I spoke effusively of my Muse, for I already thought of her as “my” sculpture…for twenty minutes. When I finally paused to take a breath, my father turned to me and said, “Well, then I think you should get it.”

Words are words, but my father is good for his word. He did not buy it for me, nor would I have wanted him to do so. Instead, he helped me get the financing, allowed me to acquire her for my own. My parents have always encouraged me to believe in the impossible, to find ways to accomplish that which I never would think I could do.

Already, she inspires me. I think of her and become radiant.

Hurry, Muse.

Frederick Hart

The purpose of my art is to seek beauty and truth, and to explore and glorify the human being and the universe.
Frederick Hart
[Repost from 6/29/06 -ed]