Smokey Robinson!!! Re: [JPL] Gladys Knight - Say What?

Jim Wilke jwilke123 at
Tue Sep 12 16:07:35 EDT 2006

Mark, Jae, and anyone else who may be still reading this thread....

This is all very well and good that famous pop stars are doing albums 
of standards and pretending to be jazz singers, but I think it's 
unfortunate that these "projects"  draw attention only to themselves 
and do nothing for the real art of jazz singing.   With all the  pop 
stars doing "jazz albums"  (standards albums, really), the real jazz 
singers who've worked hard to hone their talents for years, decades in 
some cases, get ignored.

For instance, has anyone said anything about Roberta Gambarini and her 
CD "Easy To Love" ?  She's a mature artist who had a career in Europe 
before coming to the US and is simply one of the best singers on the 
scene today.  Pitch? Rhythm? Phrasing?  Interpretation? Improvisation? 
Vocal quality?  She has it all in spades, and her first US CD (recorded 
in 2004 after many years in the US) is finally out.  I've had some of 
these tracks on a CDR for a few years, but the CD was finally issued in 
Japan and is at last available here after too long a wait.   I'm so 
happy to have it to play on Jazz After Hours!

It's not just me, Hank Jones thinks she's one of the great ones and is 
accompanying her at the Monterey Jazz Festival this weekend.  Her New 
York gigs were with The Dizzy Gillespie Alumni Band, and James Moody 
trades 4s with her (vocally and saxily) on her CD.  So far this summer 
she's played the JVC Jazz Festival NY, Scullers, The Blue Note, San 
Jose Jazz Festival, Hollywood Bowl, Tanglewood, Yoshi's and other spots 
and will be back at the Blue Note in October.

Roberta Gambarini compares well with Ella, Carmen and Sarah - and comes 
off as one for our time who keeps the vocal jazz standards high.

Jim Wilke
Jazz After Hours, PRI

On Tuesday, September 12, 2006, at 12:22  PM, Jae Sinnett wrote:

> -------------------------------------------
> Mark,
>   Okay we disagree which is fine but one of these differences is that 
> I'm not drawn as easily drawn into embracing musical inadequacies. 
> Mild intonation problems aren't that big a deal to me because it's so 
> prevelant in jazz unfortunately. I love Bob Mintzer for example and he 
> plays flat usually and occasionally sharp. Miles played flat but I 
> love Miles. Betty Carter sang out of tune so much so that even Carmen 
> McRae commented on it. It's when these intonation problems take away 
> from the music where I have issues with. In my opinion Smokey's 
> intonation problems take away from the music and to say that he is 
> swinging harder that Gladys......WITHOUT listening to her disc is a 
> bit premature. Wouldn't you say so? My guess though is that even after 
> you hear it we still won't agree. Your passion though is appreciated 
> from my perspective.
>   Jae
> Mark Shapiro <speaklow at> wrote:
> -------------------------------------------
> Jae, you wrote,
> "Mark, I'm not sure why you attached your Smokey posting to the one I 
> wrote in about Gladys Knight - particularly when yours had absolutely 
> nothing to do with Gladys Knight."
> The connection being that they're singers not usually associated with 
> jazz and both from the same general musical background. Our 
> disagreement is interesting, since I find myself defending what I 
> usually don't - an album by someone without jazz creds and with some 
> tracks not jazz (for example, I'm among those who are LEAST likely to 
> be attracted to a Motown version of "Tea For Two"). However, in this 
> case, I think that Robinson pulls it off gorgeously, as well as, as I 
> mentioned, the album communicates to me at a deep emotional level.
> "ONE reason.....he's singing horribly out of tune. In this case it 
> doesn't have as much to do with him not connecting with a tonal center 
> of the song but more to do with his obvious inability to sing 
> musically and comfortably over advanced harmonic structures."
> He's not "horribly" out of tune. Whatever problems with his 
> intonation, I find them easy to forgive. I am quite WILLING to forgive 
> in a case such as this, especially, since generally, I don't pin my 
> estimation on an artist on maintenance of pristine intonation. As far 
> as comfort with the harmony, I hear nothing but his great ease with 
> the songs. In fact, what strikes me is the depth of his understanding 
> - musical and emotional - of these songs.
> "Further.....because of this he apparentely doesn't have the ability 
> to "compliment" the chord with "color" tones that would be in line 
> with the harmony that is supporting him. Then throw in that limited 
> range, annoying fast vibrato (particularly when it's out of tune), his 
> struggles with singing in time in spots with the rhythm on some songs 
> and not being able to move the music forward with textural 
> understanding and flare."
> The vibrato and falsetto are bound to turn many people away. Even I 
> know don't usually like that kind of singing, but I do in this 
> particular case. Contrary to your estimation, I hear Robinson weaving 
> inside the songs masterfully and with beautiful momentum and panache. 
> My usual taste for singers is very straight ahead, and I usually am 
> not attracted to the more idiosyncratic interpertations. But here, I 
> hear a showman's style to match a deep feeling for the material.
> "I'm not sure if he picked the material or his producer but the songs 
> selected work totally against his capable level of singing. This is 
> what's so surprising to me with the Gladys Knight CD. There's simply 
> no comparison - no matter which way you look at it."
> I'll listen to the Knight CD a couple more times, but so far she 
> hardly gets to me like Robinson. My impression is that her phrasing is 
> stop-start and and short of the rhythms of those songs. For me, as far 
> as comparing these two albums, Robinson has a much greater jazz and 
> swing sense than does Knight .
> Mark Shapiro
> -------------------------------------------

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