Billie or Ella? Maria or Renata? Technique or feeling?

I stand back to no one in my admiration for Ella Fitzgerald's technique but all the vocal fireworks make for precious little emotion. Billie Holiday on the other hand makes you feel she's singing just for you.

Technique vs emotion also goes in listening to Renata Tebaldi (superb technique) and Maria Callas who like Lady Day makes you feel she's singing just for you.

David Oistrakh was a violinist who combined flawless technique with raw emotion. Sviatoslav Richter was his counterpart on piano. Their modern day successors are Julia Fischer on violin and Daniil Trifonov on piano.


@skyscraper So as to properly address your query, I’m curious as to what you mean by, “straight jazz.” What would be an example of such?

Tylermunns, just as an example, Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" or "Birth of the Cool" recordings as opposed to his "Sketches of Spain" or  Louis Armstrong's "Hot Five and Hot Seven" recordings as opposed to His "Hello Dolly" material. 



As far as vocalists go, Ella isn’t “straight jazz.”  When we talk of vocalists of this ilk, (Holiday, Vaughn, Washington, Sinatra, etc.) I don’t consider any of them “straight jazz.” I think of Abbey Lincoln who, by the 1960s, was singing real-deal jazz music with the great Max Roach (her husband).  Brilliant.

Those previously mentioned vocalists are singing the songs of Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Harold Arlen, Rodgers & Hart, Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hammerstein, etc.  

These are some of the greatest pop songwriters in history, but not what I would call jazz.


tylermunns, that is a terribly narrow definition of what a Jazz singer is; and one that I could not disagree with more.  Of the singers you mention, I may grant you Sinatra……maybe.  However, Ellla, Vaughn not Jazz singers?!  Ella Fitzgerald, with the possible exception of Eddie Henderson and today’s Kurt Elling was possibly the greatest vocal improviser ever.  There have been very few vocalists who have had the vocal technique and, more importantly, the command of harmony and the general vocabulary of improvised Jazz to be able to scat in a way competitive with good instrumental Jazz improvisers.  Surely, that alone puts her in the Jazz category.  Of course, all this in her generational style which was rooted in Swing and, as you say, American Songbook standards.  Btw, the vast majority of Jazz instrumentalist also used, and still use, the Great American Songbook as the primary source of their material.  So…..

Abbey Lincoln was fabulous no doubt.  Being a civil rights activist her later material reflects this.  Her “protest songs” during the time that she was married to Roach were a reflection of the social climate of the time; just as was some of the instrumental Jazz of that time.  However, her earlier recordings were centered on the American Songbook.  Does this mean she wasn’t a Jazz singer then?  

Maybe I’ve used poor terminology. to describe what I’m looking for in Ella Fitgerald recordings. I’d prefer to avoid the Gershwin or Cole Porter Great American songbook type material is all. For instance, I’ve most all of Miles Davis records through 1977, but rarely play his Porgy and Bess, Sketches of Spain or Quiet Nights recordings. For whatever reason, valid or not, I find that kind of material annoying and that’s what I’d like to avoid. Maybe her Duke Ellington Songbook album would be okay.

So if any of you could recommend any Ella albums like I’m poorly trying to describe, I’d appreciate your recommendations. Thanks.