Welcome to the Semi-final of the Shure Montreux Jazz Voice Competition 2015

3:30 The audience arrives, people take seats in the front, the singers are prepared and soon the show will start. Ten candidates will perform in the next hours. The jury will take a decision about who will be the three finalists. I am excited. And I am not the only one…

4:00 Almost every seat is taken, we wait for the jury to arrive. Who is the JURY?

Al Jarreau is this years head of the Jury, Carine Zuber (Artistic Director of The Mood’s), Joe A. Turano (Musical Director, Al Jarreau, Club 16.7), Joe Farmer (Journalist RF!), Wendy Oxenhorn (President of the Jazz Foundation of America)

How to judge this? … Interpretation, Personality, Improvisation, Interplay, …

July 15th 2015- Petit Théâtre- Montreux Palace

Three fine musicians support the singers: Jerry Léonide (Mauritius/France) on piano – he won the piano Solo competition in 2013, from Paris the incredible Zacharie Abraham on Bass and the fine tasteful drumming comes from Fred Bintner (Paris) living in Switzerland.

  • 4 :10 – 4 :20 Alyssa Allgood

Alyssa enters the room, greets the audience in French and starts with FOUR written by Miles Davis. After the theme she is scatting with good build up and finishes with the theme.Tedd Damerons song: LADY BIRD is her 2nd song, her own choice. She has a beautiful timbre, nice round head voice, good impro skills. The arrangement is nice, the band plays it beau Al Jarreau asks: Where these your lyrics to FOUR? No, Alyssa replies: Anita O’day sang these lyrics to FOUR. A nice Jazz performance: good luck, Alyssa!

  • 4 :20 – 4 :30  Sabrina Cheref (aka Sans Elle)

Sabrina Cheref starts out with Jimmy van Heusens POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS. She loves the song, you can clearly see and hear this. She brings some popy embellishments to the song, her vibrato and style fo singing is modern – the band is comping very sophisticated. Her choice from the list is Boplicity written by Miles Davis. She takes a chorus for a scat, interesting notes, big range, followed by a beautiful piano solo. She takes the song out, says goodbye. All the best to you, Sabrina!

  • 4 :30 – 4 :40 Laura David

Laura Dausse starts with INVITATION composed by Bronislau Kaper switching from Latin in the A-part to swing in the B-part of the song. She is living the song on stage. Her voice brings some souly colours, but her phrasing is coming from the jazz world. Her 2nd song is the choice from the List: Cole Porters I GET A KICK OUT OF YOU. She swings nice and easy, the arrangement is interesting and gives some unexpected kicks. Her scat goes into an interaction 4 bars each with the terrific piano player Jerry Léonide. Starting with the B-part and swinging it to a surprising, very good and effective ending. Take your applause Laura!

  • 4 :40 – 4 :50 Alina Engibaryan

Alina starts with BEBOP LIVES in a great arrangement suggesting 3 against 4. Her scat is sophisticated, nice back phrasing, yeah, tension notes, the first time I hear an altered altered scale from the singers tonight – I hear real jazz and yes, I get goosebumps. FOR ALL WE KNOW: Her voice is touching, there is something unpretentious but honest and real. She takes the ballad, opens her scat with a nice phrase in double time feel, lets it rest and sink in, takes on. Interesting to listen to her, beautiful… The 2nd A-part goes to Jerry on the piano for soloing. And by now everybody forgot the we are in a competition. It’s just fantastic music played by four great musicians. She takes the song out with some variations in the melody – all very tasteful and the audience is cheering up for her. Go, Alina go!!!

  • 4 :50 – 5 :00 Yumi Ito

Yumi opens up with freely going into a unison line together with the bass in a Samba feel. This vamp leads into SOFTLY AS IN A MORNING SUNRISE. This song is a good old American Songbook Standard, written by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II in 1928 for an operetta. All is very joyful, lively, the band is smiling. There is interplay, everybody opens up the ears to catch everything that happens. That’s Jazz! She starts the song with a free intro, cueing the band into a nice arrangement of THE NEARNESS OF YOU. Yumi is totally into the music, starts now to scat sing and her sound becomes more a trumpet than a scat. Nice, interesting guidelines for instance using #11 upwards, jazzy lines, some unexpected chords in her beautiful arrangement of the song. And everything sounds as if it was „so“ easy. Ending with an nice free phrase – high and low, very good in tune on the major7. Congratulations, Yumi!

5 :00 – 5 :30 Break

  • 5 :30 – 5 :40 Vebjørn Mamen

Vebjørns “Bonjour” introduces his first song entitled FOUR or QUATRE like he says… In the first bars we can see that he is nervous. But already in bar 5 his beautiful sound and nice jazz phrasing takes over and leads us to the world of Jazz clubs, the young Marc Murphy, James Moody and John Hendricks. YOU’VE CHANGED. He loves Jazz, he loves singing. He plays with a lot of contrasts, a lot of colours in his voice. It’s all somehow „young“, also the shyness of Chet Baker is in his voice and behavior, his Microphone Technique needs an upgrade… but all is very promising, I like what he is doing. Go for it, Vebjørn!

  • 5 :40 – 5 :50 Rebecca Mason

Rebecca starts out with SOFTLY AS IN A MORNING SUNRISE. A ends with the interlude of A night in Tunesia thats citing some jazz history and use it in a very effective and cute way. She comes from New Zealand – wow that’s a long long way. LUSH LIFE – may be “the” jazz ballad written by the 18 year old Billy Strayhorn as application for the job as a writer for the Ellington Orchestra. By the way: I love the sound of the bassist, what a sensitive and reliable Zacharie Abraham from Paris. Some sound from the 50ies are in Rebeccas voice, the way she treats the vibrato. The audience is heavily applauding for Rebecca, nice!

  • 5 :50 – 6 :00 Cinnamon Denise Murray

Cinnemon gives a nice speech at the beginning, she also looks very hip. SO WHAT! Miles Davis’ Song lets her take over the whole stage, moving from one side to the other in a very organic way. She sings the famous Miles Davis Solos with John Hendrix Lyrics, does some scat singing, leads the band from soft to loud. There is something really appealing about her. She also lets us see the change to the next “mode” in the modal song. Good. I WANT YOU from Erykah Badu lets us hear her performing strengths. Her voice and range is impressive, yes, with some short movements she gets the audience to clap for her. Playing with groove and softness – she is a musical talent, a performing talent, more she is a performer! She is a singer guiding the band, also leading us into an atmosphere of ease. You gave something special to us, thank you, Cinnemon!

  • 6 :00 – 6 :10 Chiara Pancaldi

Chiara starts with YOU’RE EV’RYTHING from Chick Coreas Album with Flora Purim “Light as a feather”. She sings a special – a written Solo and brings a scat to this complicated but beautiful song. She incorporated also a little bit of the original vamp from Chick Corea. Hoagy Carmichaels SKYLARK from 1941 is her second song. She wears a very classy dress, absolutely fitting into this Petit Theatre here in the Montreux Palace. She gives a nice interpretation of this song, hands over to Jerry Léonide on Piano he plays a short deep solo. The band is supporting the singers in a fantastic way. Well done, Chiara!

  • 6 :10 – 6 :20 Vuyo Sotashe

Vuyo comes in, the audience already greets him. Her starts singing, some notes and it’s MAGIC. Beautiful voice, big smile, great timing. Oh my god I get so emotional when I listen to good music, so my tears start falling down… A little bit of Nat King Cole is in his voice – but also I see the young Al Jarreau in him. He is dancing on stage, enjoying the music, leading the band just naturally. He starts is second song with sounds and lines generated in South Africa – bringing an original atmosphere to us. Lionel Louekes arrangement of Skylark sounding so easy and groovy – but it is in 7. He takes the improvisation so nice and easy. He makes us feel good. So much into the Jazz music, and just so that I wish he would go on for another 2 hours just singing his heart out. Hope to see and hear you a thousand more times, Vuyo!

6 :20 – 6 :50 Jury’s deliberation and announce of the finalists

Welcome back, passed the Mic to Al Jarreau. Just a few comments: “We were listening to Winners. All Winners. We have coming to this thing of competition … who is the strongest… no, if you are involved in the world and you are doing it, you are the winner … the heart and the curage it what it takes. If you wanna do it for free – then welcome on board! Music has been the spoiled child. Poets, Sculptures, Writers … they don’t get that – but doing music makes people smile, its happiness, that healing, thats good work and w are doing it. i am inspired by what I hear, I wanna go sing now… wonderful singing…

I am going to announce the finalists now in no particular order: Yumi Ito, Vuyo Satashe, Alina Engibaryan! 

CONGRATULATIONS! See you tomorrow at 5 o’clock in the FINALs!

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