Way Back Wednesday: Setting the Mood with Jazz


    Amy Winerhouse Anita Baker Mariah Carey TheLavaLizard
    Amy Winerhouse, Anita Baker and Mariah Carey

    Many people enjoy the sounds of smooth Jazz while having a cigarette or trying to convince their lovers to take off their underwear, but the mood can only be set if the music is performed just right. So, this week’s Way Back Wednesday will help you choose the right tunes by artists who know how to get the job done.

    Jazz is often a mellow affair, featuring vocals that are just as silky as arrangement of the music. However, don’t assume that such approaches to the material, regardless of the tempo, means that singing Jazz is easy. In fact, this form of artistry is widely considered as one of the highest orders of musicianship, second only to Opera.

    To help prove this point, I have compiled a list of recordings by acts from the fields of R&B, Soul, Pop and Funk who tackled Jazz standards as well as original compositions. These are the best of the best, so pay attention as you listen to the magic below:

    Amy Winehouse – “Moody’s Mood for Love”

    Anita Baker – “My Funny Valentine”

    Aretha Franklin – “Misty”

    Chaka Khan – ‘Summertime”

    Mariah Carey – “The Wind”

    Phyllis Hyman – “In a Sentimental Mood”

    Sarah Vaughan – “Sophisticated”

    Artists’ abilities are truly tested when they go beyond their comfort zones and experiment with various types of music. Of course, nobody should be expected to handle every style and each singer has limitations to what they can achieve.

    For instance, although she toyed with Opera during odd performances, Whitney Houston never demonstrated the ability to sing Jazz. Her voice had near infinite potential but her Gospel training remained at the forefront during her shows. Watch her perform “How Long Has This Been Going On?” in tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, whose version is more rooted in Jazz than that of Houston, to see what I mean:

    Whitney Houston – “How Long Has This Been Going On?”

    Ella Fitzgerald – “How Long Has This Been Going On?”

    Who is the best Jazz singer of those listed above? Who else should have been mentioned? Vote in the Way Back Wednesday poll and share your opinion!

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