I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Masae Ohno -- For Darling (Four Brothers)


The first time that I had ever heard of the musical expression Vocalese was, not surprisingly, through The Manhattan Transfer's 1985 album "Vocalese". I soon learned that it was that form of jazz singing in which lyrics were crafted and grafted hand-in-glove onto original pre-existing solo instrumental performances. My first question was "So, is it like scatting?", and the answer to that was "No!" since scatting was using nonsensical wording instead of the actual words for Vocalese.

The Manhattan Transfer wasn't the first group to come up with Vocalese. According to Wikipedia, that honour goes to Eddie Jefferson and then I found out about Lambert, Hendricks & Ross among other artists who had been practicing their Vocalese before the Transfer. However, when I think of the famed quartet and their Vocalese virtuosity, I usually remember their incredible take on "Four Brothers" which came out on their 1978 album "Pastiche". Just to give credit where credit is due, though, "Four Brothers" had originally been composed by jazz saxophonist and composer Jimmy Giuffre in 1947.

Just to be able to create that stream of Vocalese and then make it sound seamless while performing at warp speed is a supreme feat, but just imagine trying to do the same thing with "Four Brothers" in Japanese. And yet, someone did try to do just that.

Almost a couple of years ago, I noted the Queen of Commercial Songs, Masae Ohno(大野方栄), pulling off her version of "Lover, Come Back To Me" under the title of "Eccentric Person, Come Back To Me" for her 1983 debut album "Masae A La Mode". It looks like for this album, Ohno wanted to do covers for a few of the standards, and Track 1 was "Four Brothers" under the title of "For Darling". There may be no Big Band horns in this rendition but it's still plenty of jazz, and Ohno indeed takes on the big task of putting her own lyrics onto the quicksilver Giuffre melody. She does pretty well for the most part, I might add, as she dives into the pool and cuts through the water like a shark's fin, although I'm sure that she was absolutely exhausted in the recording booth.

I've also got to marvel at the lineup backing her up. Yuji Toriyama(鳥山雄司)and the late Hiroshi Sato(佐藤博), who I usually see in the City Pop file, were jamming happily away on guitar and piano respectively while the members of fusion band Casiopea were also helping out. Sato took care of the arrangements for the entire album.

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