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date: 23 August 2019

Scat singinglocked

  • J. Bradford Robinson

Extract

A technique of jazz singing in which onomatopoeic or nonsense syllables are sung to improvised melodies. Some writers have traced scat singing back to the practice, common in West African musics, of translating percussion patterns into vocal lines by assigning syllables to characteristic rhythms. However, since this practice allows little scope for melodic improvisation, and since the earliest recorded examples of jazz scat singing involved the free invention of rhythm, melody and syllables, it is more likely that the technique of scat singing originated in the USA as singers imitated the sounds of jazz instrumentalists.

Scat singing was one of the ‘novelty’ devices of early New Orleans jazz; it can also be heard in undeveloped form on some early blues and washboard-band recordings. The most celebrated early instances are by Louis Armstrong, whose highly successful recording Heebie Jeebies (1926, OK) established his reputation as a jazz singer; his early scat solos rival his trumpet improvisations in virtuosity, range of feeling and variety of attacks and timbres (...

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