• “Twisted” set to a picture of the original single. Thanks to SwingMan1938.
“Fantastic Jazz from England”
According to the Wiki, Vocalese is a style or musical genre of jazz singing wherein words are sung to melodies that were originally part of an all-instrumental composition or improvisation. Whereas scat singing uses improvised nonsense syllables, such as “bap ba dee dot bwee dee” in solos, vocalese uses lyrics, either improvised or written and set to pre-existing instrumental solos, sometimes in the form of a tribute to the original instrumentalist. The word “vocalese” is a play on the musical term “vocalise” and the suffix “-ese”, meant to indicate a sort of language.
The term wasn’t introduced until 1957, but the pioneers were around in 1952, making it happen. Annie Ross, sister of Jimmy Logan, launched her singing career with a song which would become a standard of the sub-genre. In 1952, at the age of 22, she met Prestige Records owner Bob Weinstock, who asked her to write lyrics to a jazz solo, in a similar way to King Pleasure, an artist on Bob’s label who was causing ripples with this stylization. The next day, she presented him with “Twisted”, a treatment of saxophonist Wardell Gray’s 1949 composition of the same name. The song was recorded in New York on 9th October 1952. Accompanying Annie were: Teacho Wiltshire (piano), Roger Ram Ramirez (organ), Percy Heath (bass) and Art Blakey (drums). It was an underground hit, and resulted in her winning Down Beat’s New Star award.
It was an engaging performance with great set of lyrics and a delivery which was choc-full of character:
Well I heard little children were supposed to sleep tight
That’s why I drank a fifth of vodka one night
My parents got frantic, didn’t know what to do
But I saw some crazy scenes before I came to
Now do you think I was crazy?
I may have been only three but I was swingin’
They all laughed at A. Graham Bell
They all laughed at Edison and also at Einstein
So why should I feel sorry if they just couldn’t understand
The reasoning and the logic that went on in my head?
I had a brain, it was insane
So just you let them laugh at me
When I refused to ride on all those double decker buses
All because there was no driver on the top
^ Seems reasonable enough to me :-)
You can catch Annie performing the tune in 1959 on Playboy’s Penthouse, an American variety/talk television show hosted by Playboy founder and then-editor/publisher Hugh Hefner. If you dig the piece then it really is an unmissable clip featuring Joe Williams, Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks, and Annie Ross (vocals) with Count Basie (piano), Freddie Green (guitar), Ed Jones (bass), and Sonny Payne (drums).