Vocal Jazz

Guest Editorial:
Vocal Jazz
by Niranjan Jhaveri
   Honorary Secretary General
   Jazz-India/JazzYatra/Jazz-India Vocal Institute

For any art form to evolve, there must be some new outside influences. The old Egyptian art remained static for 500 or more years, you cannot tell if two pieces of art were created in the same decade or 500 years apart. Egypt remained insulated, isolated for centuries. On the other hand, experts can date ancient Greek/Roman art almost to the decade since they were great explorers and travelers so their art constantly evolved.

Jazz was not born in Africa nor in Europe but in a place where these two met and interacted. Since then outside influences have traditionally caused jazz to evolve. The tradition of jazz is not to have any tradition but to constantly change, explore, assimilate and grow. Modern means of communication has brought influences from other cultures swiftly into jazz; physical exchange of population is no longer needed.

Jazz artists are the most adventurous explorers on earth, they have checked out the music of almost all cultures, assimilated the apt and desirable elements into the so-called mainstream of jazz.

The most glaring deficiency and problem with jazz is that vocal jazz remains highly underdeveloped when compared with instrumental jazz. This has made the music lopsided, unbalanced. It is the only music where such disparity exists.

Although they are not easy, technically very challenging, Indian vocal techniques, developed over centuries are ready-made for jazz to explore, adept and lift jazz to new heights, both aesthetically and in its popularity. India has a systematic method of training the voice to do incredible, beautiful things, using the “natural” voice (not operatic) as yet unknown to jazz or any other forms of occidental music.

Till jazz takes the necessary steps, it will remain relatively static as the great jazz explorers have already tapped almost everything else under the sun. No other direction is so obvious for jazz to take, another revolution spearheaded by the “new” vocalists of tomorrow awaits jazz, one that will be enthusiastically embraced by the instrumentalists. Vocalists will once again be equal partners.