Unique soundfrom Y’sVocal Jazz



    The BYU vocal jazz ensemble Syncopation will perform Saturday in the Madsen Recital Hall. The performance is free.

    One must understand jazz music to understand vocal jazz.

    According to Lars Yorgason, the director of Syncopation, three things make jazz music unique.

    First, jazz has a swing feel, a loosening of the rhythm so that the notes fall between the beats.

    Second, jazz musicians improvise on the music in front of them. It can be a lot or a little like the original tune, depending on how much the performer wants the audience to recognize the tune.

    Third, jazz is the only musical form that is uniquely American.

    Vocal Jazz relies on tunes from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Accompanied by the standard rhythm — piano, bass and drums — one or more vocalist will take a tune and improvise on it.

    “The harmonies that you hear in this group will be different than any other group on campus,” said Aimee Fackrell, the teaching assistant for Syncopation.

    “(Vocal Jazz) is the most difficult music to sing by far,” Fackrell said.

    Saturday’s performance will feature a range of jazz music, from Duke Ellington to Bobby McFerrin — the writer of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” The show will include solo, small group and choir performances. The solos will be completely improvised.

    Syncopation patterns its music after the vibes of New York Voices, a contemporary vocal jazz group.

    Vocal jazz is easiest to sing in small groups because the performers have to hear each other in order to improvise, Fackrell said.

    Syncopation recently returned from the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow, Idaho. Approximately 40 high school and college groups participated in the competition. The judges gave Syncopation the highest score possible, a one out of five.

    Yorgason has been playing jazz music since he was 17 years old, but said there was a long period of neglect while he taught seminary for 29 years. Yorgason said Ray Smith, the head of the BYU jazz department, asked him to come to BYU and re-organize a vocal jazz ensemble.

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