The Power of Jazz Singing

Julia and I are very happy to have read an extensive blog post by Peter Hum of The Ottawa Citizen, reviewing our CD Vertical Voices: The Music of Maria Schneider in depth.  I definitely recommend reading the whole thing, but if you're in a hurry, here are some notable quotes:

  • Dollison and Marsh...have been successful beyond imagining in transporting the lush sweep and deep emotion of Schneider's music into their fascinating, boldly beautiful vocal world.
  • Although the recording was a feat of recording wizardry...the final work sounds remarkably direct and natural, affording a striking new perspective on Schneider's work.
  • There's not a false note to be heard from Dollison and Marsh, and their improvised solos have the depth, ingenuity and impact of the comparable playing by Schneider's instrumentalists.
  • I felt [a] shudder of anticipation when Marsh began singing his solo on "Hang Gliding," and was hit by a subsequent emotional wave as his solo peaked and the vocal chorus kicked in behind him. I became kind of verklempt, and had to stop listening in the newsroom because I didn't want my colleagues looking at me funny.
  • "Vertical Voices is simply the strongest affirmation of the power of jazz singing that I've heard in a long, long time.
  • my perfect world, "Vertical Voices" ... would be as successful as any of the much more commercial and bland vocal CDs that routinely top the jazz charts...


Serious online vocal jazz clinics Julia and I have figured out how to most efficiently and effectively do online vocal jazz clinics now, and we're going to have to get the word out about it, because we just did a round this evening for a Northern California school, and we feel pretty good about it, honestly.  Here's the deal...

For something like 5% of what you'll probably spend going to one of the big festivals (with transportation, fees and lodging), you can have the following experience from us...

- Upload a video of your group performing any number of tunes, using our handy "Clinic Drop Box" on this site (gotta be signed in)
- Use the Online Clinic order form to let us know what you'd like us to do, with the best value option probably being the audio only clinic, at $20 per minute of music submitted.
- Julia and I will watch your video while we record into our beautiful studio mic, giving feedback as we pause the video often to elaborate on points and give demonstrations.  We won't be whispering, and we won't be breathing into a mic, and you'll get it back REALLY soon after you send it, in the form of a digital file that you can download directly from our server from a link.
- You'll be able to share the link with your students, if you want, and have them listen outside of class, prepping for the next rehearsals, in which you can tackle some of the new stuff we caught.
- You'll go to Reno, Greeley, Lionel Hampton, SWCC, Fullerton or WHEREVER and score about five points higher than you would have otherwise (or, in a non-competitive sense, you'll get more specific feedback from the judges that adds to what we caught and what you've been stressing to your kids all year anyway!).

Seriously, a pretty good deal, I think, and it's absolutely enjoyable for Julia and me, as well.  

Get in touch and hook your group up with an online clinic right away!  That way, you won't have your kids doing this...


Ahhh...the return of schadenfreude...

I may not have a new video EVERY day from now on, and I'll probably just sprinkle in some good schadenfreude whenever it seems appropriate to do so...and I just hate that I missed posting this beauty on Easter Sunday!  Here it is, a day late:

I checked out the second half of a great show at J.B.'s, Sacramento's premiere jazz club, last night.  Joe Berry, an extraordinarily talented young saxophonist, and Jessie Clemens, formerly the lead soprano of my top groups at Sac State for five years and now freelance jazz vocalist in town, led a talented group in a tribute concert to the Getz/Gilberto sound.  Very tasty and refined work from both of them.  Clemens' grasp of Portuguese was a big hit with the crowd, and I dug it, too, but my favorite thing about her singing was her total sense of ease and poise onstage, and her mesmerizing use of tone and air to tell the story.

Julia got the first three or so pages sung on a new demo for "Lorem Ipsum," a contemporary classical women's group piece I wrote for Naperville North High School for the past fall.  We're just now getting to the demo, unfortunately, but the good news is that it's sounding really, really great.  I think it may be popular with a totally different crowd than normally buys my charts, and I may have to write a few more of these, if they're going to sound this good on the demos!'s killing, and totally different than anything else I've written.  If you're curious about the Latin text for the piece (based on the title)...just do a quick Google search and see for yourself.  :)

What a TO-DO!

It seems that life for the freelancer, which is the work category Julia and I have now solidly placed ourselves in for a while, can be a bit of a battle with the to-do list.  I'm probably not blowing anyone's mind with that assertion.  Still, I think I've been in "to-do" mode for around 16 solid months, at least.  That would be around the time that Julia and I started putting together the initial launch content and design for our ArtistShare project that would ultimately become "Vertical Voices: The Music of Maria Schneider."  Anyway, keeping that project running on time while still doing the kind of work that would keep us financially afloat meant staying organized, at least in terms of all those tasks.  

I've noticed, in that time, that when people would ask something of me, a common reply from me would be, "Alright...let me throw it in the iPhone, because if I put it on the to-do list, it'll happen, and otherwise, it won't."  One thing that hasn't been on my to-do list, because, for a few solid months, it was a daily exercise, has been updating this blog.  I left the CD release promo video up for a week or so because I wanted to give people a chance to see it, but the fact that I broke out of my routine was key.  I didn't make a to-do item for resuming the blog at some point, so it didn't happen, and I only put in one entry after that (the one below).  

I'm not automatically a skinny guy, as you probably know, and I'm constantly either in weight loss struggle mode or not-thinking-enough-about-it mode.  When I was in my routine, leading up the CD release, I was doing pretty well, steadily losing fractions of a pound daily.  But stopping the blog and travelling to North Carolina and Utah took me out of my routine, and you'd think that Spring Break would be the ideal time to get back into the routine...but instead, I've spent the whole week focusing on knocking out to-do items, some of which have been pretty big undertakings. More below about that, in the "Catching up with Kerry" segment.

But suffice to say that I've decided to go through another kind of reorganization with my to-do's.  I'm checking out the mind-mapping software for the iPhone, and I'm going to set up a map to which I can refer daily that includes not just to-do items but everyday routine reminders.  These don't have to be competing concepts, I think.  I think I've got it figured out this time...

So...Catching up with Kerry...

Here's what I've been up to over spring break, in no particular order:


  • Rewrote my charts on "Virtual Insanity" and "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing," because they're very popular and the notation and some of the arranging choices have been bugging me.  This, though, has added the to-do item of re-recording demos for those two charts, one of which is in a new key and the other of which has a bunch of new figures added.  Both will be released in their refreshed forms in my *June* new charts release promo.  (That's right, I'm pushing that back to June now, because I want to make sure all to-do items have a chance to be met before I kick the new babies out of their nest).
  • Wrote a new commission on Boyz II Men's "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" for Fife High School in Seattle, directed by Karl Sorensen.  Also recorded the demo on it relatively quickly.
  • Sent out big mailer of the CD to radio stations across the country.  We'd already done our press mailer and our "thank you's" mailer, although we have a supplemental one of those to do, as well.
  • Did some study and tutorial training on Final Cut Pro 7, as Julia and I are planning on doing much more video production starting ASAP.
  • Gave an interview to Jazziz magazine with Julia, for a "Prelude" section feature about the CD to come out soon.
  • Had our first press photo shoot for the album at Sac State with a State Hornet photographer, and did an interview with another Hornet person for a story on our participation on the Monterey Next Generation Festival.
  • Got caught up, then behind again, then caught up again, and now behind again on email correspondence.  That's on my to-do list for today.

And this one isn't an accomplishment, I'm afraid, but just a sad milestone:  My beagle, Nosey, who has been living in Great Bend, KS with my folks for the past five years, had to be put asleep when she had a large growth on her spleen that was painful and inoperable.  She was only about nine years old, and we were pretty devastated to lose her.  If you've been a dog owner, of course you'll understand, but she was very much a part of our family and our lives, and she was extraordinarily sweet and gentle.  Something about losing a being that loves unconditionally is very, very difficult.  Many of my students and friends around here know her, even though she's been out of the state for five years.  She is very much missed.

So what's up for the rest of spring break (about 18 hours left) and beyond?  If I wrote it here, I wouldn't be compelled to come back and write more tomorrow, would I?


The first review is in, and it's a big one!

Terry Teachout has written the first review of our album Vertical Voices: The Music of Maria Schneider.  Here's what he has to say:

"Julia Dollison has joined forces with her husband, the singer-arranger Kerry Marsh, to create an album of Maria Schneider's compositions for big band in which all of the original horn parts are sung, not played. (Schneider's own rhythm section provides instrumental support.) More than just a technical tour de force, this CD is a miracle of kaleidoscopically varied vocal color that provides an arresting new perspective on Schneider's musical genius. If you've heard Observatory, Dollison's 2005 debut CD, you won't need to be told twice to get Vertical Voices. If not, get them both."

Teachout is the drama critic for the Wall Street Journal and chief culture critic for Commentary.  He is also a New York Times bestselling author for Pops, A Life of Louis Armstrong.  Our CD is mentioned on his ArtsJournal Blog About Last Night as one of his current "Top 5."