Thomas, Robin (2013) The evolution of the jazz vocal song: what comes after the Great American Song Book? Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This MA research project was originally motivated by the desire to explain the powerful dominance of standard songs from the Great American Songbook in the repertoire of jazz singers. This term refers to a large body of songs written in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, by Cole Porter, Gershwin, Rogers and Hammerstein, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin and others, often as part of musicals, which have become the standard repertoire for singers in the jazz idiom. After all, many of these songs were written over 70 years ago and both audiences and singers seem happy with that fact. However, given the advance of instrumental jazz into new vehicles, it seems sensible to analyse and explain this domination of the singer’s repertoire, whilst at the same time, come up with some pointers to the future.

Initial findings suggest the following general conclusions. The Great American Songbook is still dominant in the jazz vocal repertoire, but there are a number of trends to show that some singers are keen to develop new ideas. The research has
found that there is a richness and variety in the contemporary jazz vocal. Whilst the domination of the Great American Songbook remains strong, there has been a major trend towards using popular songs from the 1960s to the present day, plus a body of original new songs, and lyrics being written for existing jazz tunes. Rock, folk and hip hop elements are present and a move away from a swing emphasis towards a more groove-based approach has been seen. However, in addition to new material, what has been noticed is an innovative approach to the actual performance of the song.

While some very competent exponents of the standard jazz song are filling halls and selling CDs, the flame of innovation is also thriving, in keeping with the great ability of jazz to absorb influences and reinvent itself. The portfolio of songs, submitted as part of the project, reflects this writer’s creative and musical take on the research and attempts to show the direction in which the jazz vocal song may be moving. The CD essentially contains rough demos of songs composed by the writer. They can be seen as frameworks for others to develop and interpret further.

__nas01_librhome_librsh3_Desktop_MA Dissertation Submission Robin Thomas June 2013Pat1.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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