Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald...are they jazz?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by MRamble, Dec 13, 2013.

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  1. MRamble

    MRamble Forum Resident Thread Starter

    A friend of mine and I got into a mini dispute about how to categorize vocalists like Sinatra and Ella. He said he'd file them under jazz while I disagreed saying that while there are some jazz aspects to the music---it just isn't straight jazz. I see his point but then I also can't subscribe fully to it. Any thoughts?
  2. kailung

    kailung Forum Resident

    lincoln,Il Usa
    Jazz has kind of come to mean a bop sound. It used to mean anything that swings. Under the old meaning, both Frank and Ella both fit well. Under the new meaning they don' t fit well at all.
  3. Dave

    Dave Esoteric Audio Research Specialistâ„¢

    Greater Vancouver
    You must be a psychic, I was considering this with regards to Frank just yesterday. Jazz, definitely but his Pop characteristics are too big to ignore and say "it's Jazz". Ella would fall better into just Jazz than Frank.
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  4. Tony Jonaitis

    Tony Jonaitis Well-Known Member

    Ella: always! Frank: depends on the collector/fan. I would certainly put Frank in my Jazz collection (and do), but some folks just refer to him as a vocalist.
    huge logo, John Moschella and MRamble like this.
  5. alankin1

    alankin1 Forum Resident

    If you're thinking of improvisation, I would say Frank, no. Ella, yes.
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  6. Mr. H

    Mr. H Forum Resident

    Sinatra is in the Easy Listening section of my local shop, while Fitzgerald is in the Jazz section.
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  7. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Marysville, WA
    I think that they, as individuals, were definitely jazz singers. The music they performed? Not always jazz. Is Eric Clapton a rock guitarist? Sure. Is Tears in Heaven a rock song? Uhh.......
  8. MRamble

    MRamble Forum Resident Thread Starter

    That's the thing I'm struggling with. I see both sides of the argument but jazz doesn't sit well. It's hard to imagine that Frank can be grouped in with the likes of Miles Davis or John Coltrane. But Frank's direct link to jazz is through Count Basie. That big band stuff definitely fits under jazz. But then is it really because the melodies in those songs were very pop, not so much jazz.

    That's how I personally see Frank and Ella...vocalists. Wikipedia lists them as traditional pop and easy listening. I feel even worse about those titles.
  9. MRamble

    MRamble Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I normally don't like all these subgenres in a genre but certainly there is a hybrid thing going on here with Frank Sinatra? The larger tunes like "Luck Be A Lady" can be considered swing or big band yet something as delicate like "One For My Baby" could be considered jazz, I think. The tune has a lot of jazz sensibilities that it could easily fall into jazz had it not been for the vocal laid on top of the music.

    My only issue with calling any of this full jazz is that musically, these songs don't seem to take the same wild chances that other jazz music does. The music obviously supports the melody so compositions tend to be a little bit more on the conservative side. There are jazz elements in the music but from a construction stand point--it's hard to label it as such.
  10. belardd

    belardd Forum Resident

    Fort Worth TX
    Frank's phrasing is certainly jazz-like at times
  11. MRamble

    MRamble Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Are there any jazz enthusiasts on the board who wholeheartedly believe that Frank and Ella do not belong in jazz? Would love to hear from their side.
  12. hodgo

    hodgo Tea Making Gort (Yorkshire Branch) Staff

    East Yorkshire
    Yes they were Jazz and Ella was the finest female Jazz singer of them all.
  13. MRamble

    MRamble Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I have no idea why I've disliked the term easy listening. It sounds like a put down more than anything else. Frank's music has bite and a jump---nothing about it is "easy." I'm making a fuss, obviously but that's the thought that comes to my head when I hear that phrase. It makes me ancy when I see Frank in there if I see it at a store. Once I saw Elvis Presley in the Easy Listening section and that really made me uncomfortable.
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  14. MRamble

    MRamble Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I think I feel okay about putting Ella under jazz...and throw in Billie Holiday in there. I'm not sure why I'm unsure about where to place Frank. I guess both fall under jazz but more towards the spectrum in the direction of pop. That's the only way I think I can categorize it.
  15. DR.J

    DR.J Forum Resident

    Chicago Suburb
    For my uses, I created a Genre for all my digital music called "Classic American." I put Frank, Ella, Sammy, Dean, Bing, Tony.... into this category. It's a bit vague but has meaning to me.
  16. Why the need to classify, if not to fit artists neatly on a shelf or in a store? Sinatra, Fitzgerald, and also Peggy Lee and Nat King Cole all started out in the swing era, and later went on to record pop. Even Billie Holiday, who would be considered the purest of jazz singers, recorded with violins at the end. So did Shirley Horn. So, who's to say? All those who started out in the swing era brought an element of their jazz "education" with them when doing pop. Take any Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole or Sinatra so-called pop song, and you can hear the jazz origins in their singing. Judy Garland tried her hand at jazz - listen to Carnegie Hall if you want to explore that, but was more a pop artist than jazz, even if a recent broadcast on Maine Public Radio raised the possibility that she could also be considered a jazz artist. I might add that Garland never improvised, which might be reason to say she was not a jazz singer.
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  17. MRamble

    MRamble Forum Resident Thread Starter

    That's interesting. I could see myself subscribing to that title. At the moment, I'm trying to still figure it out and I can't ignore the jazz factor because it seems so obviously clear.
  18. mmars982

    mmars982 Forum Resident

    Pittsburgh, PA
    I have some titles of each of them categorized as "vocal jazz" which makes sense to me (wasn't what I called them; they showed up that way when I ripped into my library).
  19. MRamble

    MRamble Forum Resident Thread Starter

    There's no particular "need" for me to classify them, per se. But I just want to know where they fit in the larger picture of music. I'm wondering where they sit in the spectrum. What elements of jazz did they use in their music? How does their music fit in the jazz landscape--if at all? Just general curiosity because this one really can go either way.
  20. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Marysville, WA
    And I've been to multiple record shops where the idiots who work there put the Count Basic discs in with the Count Basie discs.
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  21. john greenwood

    john greenwood Well-Known Member

    I enjoy jazz. I also grew up with the Great American Songbook courtesy of my dad. I think on many occasions Frank and Ella's intent is to act as interpreters of those songs, as opposed to say Sonny Rollins or Miles Davis, or often, Betty Carter or Cassandra Wilson who would take a popular song and use it as a springboard for improvisation. For Frank, in particular, the lyrics seem as essential as the music. This doesn't mean jazz singers cannot present lyrically intelligent vocals - witness Billie Holliday - but sometimes Frank simply wants to present the song as its own work of art. The saloon albums offer the best examples of that.

    Before people jump in with counter-examples, I too can come up with dozens. The above are gross generalizations meant to respond to the quoted post.
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  22. Jackson

    Jackson Forum Resident

    MA, USA
    I doesn't matter what you call it, "I call it pop-jazz" they're both GREAT.
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  23. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    I don't think I'd call Sinatra a jazz singer. Of course he had been a big band singer. But he rarely improvised at all, with obviously a major component of jazz, rarely departed much from the written melody (didn't jazz the songs, to go back to one of the early ideas of what playing jazz involved). He was a big band singer, his music swings like jazz, he played sometimes even later in his career in jazzy contexts, but I don't think fundamentally he was a jazz singer. Ella Fitzgerald definitely did all that and she could and would trade improvisational choruses with the instrumentalists and definitely jazzed the written melodies. I'd call her a jazz singer, even if every record she made wasn't a jazz record -- she took a jazz approach to her performances. After Sinatra left the big bands, the instances of Sinatra making what I would consider a jazz record or a jazz vocal performance are very rare.
  24. bferr1

    bferr1 Forum Resident

    Where do they file the works of Count von Count?
  25. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    East TN
    I have them filed under-Jazz Vocals
    drew phillips likes this.
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