Building a Dream Big Band Part V: The Vocalists

So the instrumentalists are all in place. Trumpets? Check. Trombones? Check. Saxes? Check. Rhythm section? Check. My dream big band is nearing completion. This band could hit the imaginary road right now, entertaining crowds around the world. But we are still missing a few key elements. A bandleader, for starters. Also, a couple guest vocalists. One male and one female guest vocalists, to be exact.

You will be introduced to my bandleader in part VI, and I can not only promise you that you will never guess who it is, but you will not believe who I picked once you see it. That’s the wonderful thing about this being MY dream big band. I can put Michael Brecker in the lead tenor chair, have an electric bass player, and have Miles Davis playing the fourth part. This band is a band that I would want to see on stage. Whether or not they would be the tightest group as a whole is one thing, but to see all these people together would give me more joy than any other group. That being said, be kind when you see my bandleader in the next part.

But for today, we look to the vocalists. When finished, the band will be 21 pieces, with 5 trumpets, 4 trombones, 5 saxes, guitar, bass, drums, piano, a male and female singer, and a bandleader. Here is how the band looks so far:


Lead: Arturo Sandoval

2nd Chair: Wynton Marsalis

Third Chair: Freddie Hubbard

Fourth Chair: Miles Davis

Fifth Chair: Thad Jones

Trombones (selected by former KPLU host Troy Oppie):

Lead: Bob Burgess

Second Chair: Frank Rosilino

Third Chair: Al Grey

Bass Trombone: Bill Hughes


First Alto: Charlie Parker

Second Alto: Cannonball Adderley

First Tenor: Michael Brecker

Second Tenor: John Coltrane

Baritone Saxophone: Cecil Payne

The Rhythm Section:

Guitar: Charlie Christian

Piano: Herbie Hancock

Bass: Jaco Pastorius

Drums: Jack DeJohnette

And now, our two guest vocalists.

I really wanted a couple of vocalists with some soul. These band members can be less versatile as far as style goes, since they aren’t going to be performing on every song like the rest of the band. They can focus on their own style on the few featured songs they would be performing on.

Female Vocalist: Carmen McRae

carmen-macraeI can’t sit here and tell you that Carmen is a better singer than Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, or Dinah Washington. I can simply tell you that hearing Carmen sing, in her prime, would create a bigger smile on my face than hearing the rest of them combined. She could sing a wonderful ballad, and then sing something wonderfully fun. I always found a certain earthy warmth in her voice that was ultimately enjoyable.

Watch Carmen McRae sing I’m Going to Lock My Heart and Throw Away the Key:

Watch Carmen McRae sing I’m Glad There is You:

Male Vocalist: Lou Rawls

lourawlsOK, so alot of Lou’s fame has come as an R & B singer. But its the R & B and Gospel influence that I feel makes his jazz performances that much more unique. Like Carmen, Lou is great on the ballads with that baritone voice, but could also sing music that would make anyone smile. Great stuff with Benny Carter and his big band in the 1960’s up until he passed away.

Watch Lou Rawls talk jazz with Kermit the Frog, and sing scat with the Muppets:

Watch Low Rawls sing Stormy Monday:

So the band is nearly complete. All thats left is a bandleader…coming up next. And you will be shocked! And as always, let me know who you would like to see in your dream big band!