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Ladies Special

Later this month,NCPA pays tribute to women jazz vocalists of the 20th century.

Written by Zaira Arslan |
June 8, 2013 12:21:49 am

Ella Fitzgerald,Billie Holiday,Sarah Vaughan,Betty Carter,Anita O’Day and Carmen McRae are some of the most celebrated jazz vocalists the world has seen. Their work has been covered time and again by musicians the world over,thus immortalising them,but also making them available to current generations.

Continuing their annual celebration of musical geniuses and legends,the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA),Nariman Point,will,on June 15,host an event that pays tribute to some of these legendary woman jazz vocalists. Last year,the event,NCPA Legends,was a tribute to Whitney Houston and in 2011,to Elvis Presley. Mumbai-based musician and vocal instructor Samantha Edwards will be on vocals this year,with the Japanese musician Hidekai Tokunaga on the guitar and Indonesian Tala Faral on the saxophone.

This will be the first time that the focus is solely on women vocalists. “People conduct diva concerts very often — pop divas,rock divas and such — but not jazz,” says Edwards. While her professional musical career began close to 22 years ago,Edwards has been interested in singing jazz since she was five years old. “At my first-ever competition,I sang an Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong song,”she says.

The genre itself has been through definite phases since it hit the mainstream in the early 20th century. For instance,in the ’30s,big bands and danceable jazz music was most popular,in the ’40s,smaller groups with a focus on instruments,while the ’50s and ’60s took the focus to vocalists. In the decades since,the vocal variety may not have been as popular,but Edwards believes it is making a comeback now. “As a vocal educator,I’m now seeing more students opting for jazz,while earlier there was hesitation,” she says.

On the audience front,too,Edwards believes there has been growth. “I think there is an audience here and it’s growing immensely. It’s about creating an awareness,and while earlier it was thought of as music for older people,younger people are also taking to it now,” she says.

For this tribute event,they will focus on music from the ’50s,’60s and ’70s,the most prominent decades for vocal jazz. The concert will be entirely acoustic,while the setting too,will attempt to recreate these decades.

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