Famed jazz talent is all in the family.
Of all the female vocal groups that have come and gone in jazz history, Steve Stone admires the Boswell Sisters the most.
"They had this tremendous blend," says Stone, leader of Emerald City Jazz Kings. "They had this ability to swing when nobody was even thinking along those lines. They reinvented tunes. They changed tempos. They mixed voices. They did all sort of things that made everybody else sit up and listen."
To demonstrate, Stone has built the upcoming Emerald City Jazz Kings' program (Thursday and Oct. 19) on the Boswell Sisters. Replicating the famed trio's close harmonies will be singers Shirley Sachs, Vickie Brabham and Julie Aslin, who have won audiences' favor with the material at various concerts during the past seven years.
The concerts will include such Boswell Sisters classics as "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," "Sentimental Gentleman From Georgia," "Rock and Roll," "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Everybody Loves My Baby" and "If I Had A Million Dollars."
Also sure to charm will be two songs by a later - and probably better known - trio, the Andrews Sisters: "Begin the Beguine" and "My Romance."
The songs have been arranged by Eugene's Lou Halmy, who began arranging music for Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm in the 1930s, when the Boswell Sisters were in their heyday.
The concert will open with the Boswell' Sisters' version of "It's the Girl," which is also the inspiration for the program's title.
My, how times have changed. No longer - thankfully - are female pop singers referred to as "canaries," "thrushes," "chicks," "chirps" and other avian appellations. Nor are they called "girl singers" (although for what it's worth, males of the same era were called "boy singers").
Today, acts such as the Boswell Sisters are considered superior vocal groups, regardless of gender.
Raised in New Orleans, the sisters seemed to have been born to sing together.
"When they were growing up,' Stone says, `they could be in three different rooms in the house and they would start singing the same number in the same key at the same time. They had this real bond between them."
Not only that, each singer held her own, Stone says.
"Every good vocal group has to have one outstanding singer. That, in this case, was Connee Boswell, who went on to have a career of her own. But when you listen to them, you really can't tell the difference between them. They have just this perfect blend. It's an amazing sound," Stone says.
Popular in the early 1930s, the Boswell Sisters consisted of Martha (born in 1905), Connee (1907) and Helvetia or "Vet" (1911). They began as an instrumental group, but by 1925 they had made a name for themselves as a vocal trio in the South; by 1931 they were recording in New York City.
During the next five years, they produced more than 100 recordings and radio transcriptions which, Stone says, "reveal an ensemble of incredible virtuosity and originality which has never been equaled."
Although the trio had a short life ("It stopped when a couple of them got married," Stone says), they reigned supreme for a half-decade.
Other groups tried to emulate their peppy, two-beat material and move it into the swing era. Among their followers were the Dolly Sisters, the Brox Sisters, the Trix Sisters, the Pickens Sisters, the King Sisters, the Dinning Sisters, the McGuire Sisters and the Chordettes.
"Such groups had very little, if anything, to do with jazz singing," Stone says. "They evolved almost entirely from the white, middle-class tradition. Unlike male ensembles such as the Rhythm Boys and the Mills Brothers, they borrowed few, if any, stylistic features from early jazz or spirituals."
But Stone says the Boswell Sisters, once viewed chiefly as pop singers, are now considered "the standard by which jazz singing is measured."
For this concert, Stone is reuniting three singers - Brabham, Sachs and Aslin - who are not related but have a surprisingly close blend.
"They started off to sound like the Boswell Sisters, but they also sound like themselves as well," Stone says. "They not only do a credible job of singing that style but also bring some originality to it as well."
Fred Crafts can be reached at 338-2575 or email@example.com.
"It's the Girls"
What: The Emerald City Jazz Kings, directed by Steve Stone, present songs made popular by the Boswell Singers and other female vocal groups
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 2:30 p.m. Oct. 19
Where: John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts, 285 E. Broadway
How much: $13 to $28, at the OFAM box office (687-6526)
Pre-concert event: An OFAMily-style meal will be served at 6 p.m Thursday ($15.50 each) and 1 p.m. Oct. 19 ($9.50) in the Shedd gymnasium; reservations: 687-6526
GuardLine: To hear some of the music, call GuardLine at 485-2000 from a touch-tone phone and request category 3733
Steve Stone says the Boswell Sisters help set the standard for jazz vocalists.
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|Title Annotation:||Emerald Valley Jazz Kings find inspiration in the Boswell Sisters; Entertainment|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Oct 10, 2003|
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