The American public often sees jazz as an insider’s art; an exclusive music that plays to the hip crowd while leaving the general public cold. Jazz lovers talk about things like personal expression and individual identity, concepts that don’t always resonate with the greater population. Jazz lovers speak with familiarity about artists like “Bird,” “Trane,” or “Diz,” names that seem unusual to the uninitiated. A majority of jazz recordings are instrumental tracks including sometimes dissonant improvisations and passionate expressions – a completely different type of music than the contents of most people’s iPods. Some people may appreciate jazz from afar, but integrating the art form deeply into their lives seems far-fetched. The circle of familiarity coupled with the differences in music make jazz appear to be a different world – one that can be very difficult for newcomers to enter.
Jazz musicians take one view or another on this topic, which instigates them into a certain stage presence – either they reach outwards for a connection with their audience or they delve further into their insider circles. Some artists are natural entertainers and they thrive from the connection they form with an audience. Musicians like Dizzy Gillespie and Tito Puente built strong relationships with their audience while making great music; their personalities allowed them to reach people without sacrificing the integrity of their work. Other artists need to focus their energies upon the stage, completely concentrating upon the musical experience. The necessities of their artistic expression require them to turn their attention towards the onstage interaction and shared understanding of the artistic statement. They may seem to “ignore” the audience, but they are honestly working towards creating a stronger performance for the audience’s enjoyment. These two perspectives sometimes divide the jazz world, and they certainly confuse the larger listening audience.
Vocalists serve as the natural bridge between the jazz world and the sometimes alienated listening audience. As I stated yesterday in my post on 4 Latin Jazz Vocalists Forging Their Own Identity, singers have the inherent gift of language working to their advantage. The audience immediately understands what the musician is trying to express, and in many cases, the audience feels an immediate connection. As a musician sings, it just “feels” natural, kind of like an old friend talking to you – how could a listener not connect to that sensation? When a vocalist adds an outgoing personality to that given advantage, it’s an unstoppable force, just grabbing fans and bringing them into the jazz community.
We need the outreach provided by vocalists, and most importantly, we need them to connect while performing high quality music. Fortunately, there are several vocalists fulfilling this role; they are communicators, entertainers, and true artistic visionaries. They serve as role models to all of us, blazing a trail full of vital artistry and honest outreach. The following videos present three of those vocalists moving the Latin Jazz world forward – Sofia Koutsovitis, Lucia Pulido, and Kat Parra. They represent the future of high quality performances, and in many ways, the future of the music. Enjoy!
Alma Del Pueblo – Sofia Koutsovitis Group
Samba Malato – Alcatraz w/Sofia Koutsovitis
Canoa Rancha – Lucia Pulido
Pedacito De Mi Vida – Kat Parra
Check Out These Related Posts:
Afro-Peruvian Jazz Videos
5 Latin Jazz Guitarists on Video
Creating Authentic Buzz: Gabriel Alegria and Sofia Koutsovitis on Video