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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Hustlin' for a Gig

Housekat Records (no number)



1. He Was The Cat (A Tribute to Eddie Jefferson)
2. Hustlin' for a Gig
3. Gone Gone Gone
4. I'll Remember Why
5. Caught You Spreadin' Your Love All Over the Place
6. This is the Life
7. A Million Miles
8. Java Junkie
9. Now I Have This
10. You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

Ginny Carr, Robert McBride, André Enceneat, Holly Shockey - Vocals
Frank Russo - Drums, percussion
Max Murray - Bass
Alan Blackman - Piano, Fender Rhodes
Steve Herberman - Guitar
Chris Vadala - Alto sax, clarinet
Leigh Pilzer - Tenor sax, bass sax
Chris Walker - Trumpet
Jen Krupa - Trombone
Ginny Carr - Additional keyboards


Eddie Jefferson probably started it; King Pleasure popularized it; Lambert, Hendricks & Ross recorded some classic versions of it, but vocalese seems to be a neglected art. Is Manhattan Transfer the only major group seemingly keeping it alive? The Oxford English Dictionary defines vocalese as "A style of singing in which singers put words to jazz tunes, esp. to solos previously improvised by jazz musicians". However, Manhattan Transfer is not the only vocal group working in this field. Here is the Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet, two gals and two guys who, on this disc, perform songs written by their leader, Ginny Carr.

Although they may classify their material as vocalese elsewhere, the group here performs songs rather than pieces of vocalese, as the repertoire doesn't seem to be based on existing jazz tunes or solos. So you might call the UVJQ a close-harmony quartet. He Was The Cat is a heartfelt tribute to Eddie Jefferson. One quality it shares with vocalese is the speed with which the lyrics whizz by, which doesn't always make them very easy to hear. Alto-saxist Chris Vadala adds a swooping solo.

The title-track tells a story very familiar to musicians: the soul-destroying task of looking for gigs. It is tellingly interspersed with the sort of rejections musicians often hear from agents, such as "I never heard of you" and "Can I see your video?" Other outstanding tracks include Gone Gone Gone, which has an infectious Latin feel; I'll Remember Why, a poignant love-song; and Java Junkie which is about addiction to coffee. This is the Life is the only song on the CD not composed by Ginny Carr - it is by Charles Strouse & Lee Adams.

The quartet's vocal skills are undeniable, and the album is made more accessible by the very clear recording and some sterling work from the backing band. Notable solos come in This is the Life from guitarist Steve Herberman (whose solo quotes Taking a Chance on Love), pianist Alan Blackman in A Million Miles, and trombonist Jen Krupa (any relation to the famous drummer?) in Java Junkie.

This may not be vocalese but it contains some good songs with literate lyrics, performed with impeccable harmonies. Ginny Carr deserves praise for all the composing of music and lyrics as well as writing arrangements which showcase the brilliance of all the vocalists and instrumentalists. This quartet won't need to be hustlin' for a gig for a long time to come: the bookings should come flooding in.

Tony Augarde

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