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Expect Diverse, Complex Repertoire From UNT Jazz Singers, Vertical Voices Live

by John Murphy 5 Apr 2012 9:58 AM

Think for a moment about singing without words, using the voice as an instrument. Then go hear how it’s done at UNT Friday night. Guest blogger John Murphy, chair of Jazz Studies at UNT, interviews Professor Jennifer Barnes, who leads UNT’s jazz singers AND performs with Vertical Voices Live.


Ponder for a moment singing without words, using your voice as an instrument.  Then go listen Friday when UNT Jazz Singers perform with guests Vertical Voices Live. Guest blogger John Murphy, Chair of the UNT Division of Jazz Studies, interviews Professor Jennifer Barnes, director of Vocal Jazz at UNT and a member of  Vertical Voices Live.

The show is at 8 p.m. Friday at Voertman Hall, UNT College of Music (inside the Music Building, entrance faces Ave. C).  Go here for more details.

For a list of all events related to D’JAM – Jazz Appreciation Month, go here.

The UNT Jazz Singers, directed by Prof. Jennifer Barnes, and guest artists Vertical Voices Live will present their annual Spring Concert on Friday, April 6, 2012, in Voertman Hall in the UNT College of Music. Prof. Barnes, in her first year as Director of Vocal Jazz, is a member of Vertical Voices Live along with Kerry Marsh, Julia Dollison, and Greg Jasperse.

Vertical Voices Live is the vocal quartet-plus-rhythm section that was formed to enable live performances based on the arrangements of music by Maria Schneider that Kerry Marsh and Julia Dollison created through multi-track layering of their voices. The resulting CD, recorded in collaboration with the rhythm section of the Maria Schneider Orchestra, was released as Vertical Voices: the music of Maria Schneider as an ArtistShare project.

On this Friday’s concert, the rhythm section for Vertical Voices Live will be the UNT Jazz Singers rhythm section. The concert will include compositions and arrangements by Jennifer Barnes, Julia Dollison, Clare Fischer, Greg Jasperse, Sarah Kervin, Kelly Kunz, Nando Lauria, Kerry Marsh, Pat Metheny, Manhattan Transfer, Connaitre Miller and Maria Schneider.

UNT Jazz Singers

“My goal with the programming of the Jazz Singers portion of the concert,” Prof. Barnes said, “was to be really diverse. I knew we were going to do a limited amount of repertoire this semester because we’re sharing the concert with Vertical Voices Live. The singers are capable of singing anything, so it’s more challenging and beneficial for them if they get a chance to do as many different things as possible. We’re doing funk, modern jazz, Latin jazz, classic swing tunes including a Basie chart with lyrics, and an a cappella swing tune that we performed at the Kennedy Center last fall. What’s also going to be fun about this program is that we have both vocal improvisation and some really lovely solo features for several of the singers. The Latin jazz piece is a tribute in memory of Clare Fischer, an arrangement of the German folk song ‘Du, du, liegst mir im Herzen.’ There will be something for everyone.”

Vertical Voices Live

The Vertical Voices Live repertoire, Prof. Barnes said, “is extremely complex and challenging. We have branched out from just the Maria Schneider repertoire, although we’ll be performing two of the pieces from the Maria Schneider album.”

What distinguishes this group from other contemporary jazz vocal groups “is that the majority of our repertoire is wordless. Two out of our seven pieces have lyrics.” The wordless pieces are “like a modern art piece that leaves room for listeners to interpret their own feelings and experiences.” In a wordless vocal arrangement, “you’re hearing all the vocal textures but you can go on your own emotional journey without being told the plot line.” Julia Dollison, who is also a visual artist and created the artwork for the Vertical Voices CD, compares the lyrics/wordless distinction to the representational/non-representational distinction in visual art.

Another distinctive aspect of this group is that all four members are composers, arrangers, and improvisers as well as solo jazz singers. “We use our voices as instruments,” said Prof. Barnes.

Voertman Hall is the recently renovated hall in the College of Music building. It has superb acoustics and seats approximately 380 people.

For those who are unable to attend, the concert will be streamed. Visit this page , where streaming will start about 15 minutes prior to the concert start time, 8 p.m. CDT.