American Perspective Vocal Jazz, Part II: Medium Difficult and Advanced

SBO Staff • March 2009Repertoire Forum • March 24, 2009

Last issue, I explored vocal jazz arrangements that could give singers new to the idiom a successful foray into it. In this issue, I focus on arrangements for more experienced jazzers.

I freely admit to not being an expert on the jazz genre or the vocal jazz idiom. There are plenty of experts out there, however, and I encourage you to read their books and articles, explore the Web for resources, watch instructional videos, and attend workshops. As you gain vocal jazz experience, you may want to expand into unpublished arrangements and companies, like UNC Jazz Press, which can lead you to some phenomenal and more challenging arrangements.

– Drew Collins, forum editor


  • Georgia On My Mind (Hoagy Carmichael, arr. Gene Puerling) Alfred
    Audiences and singers love this song. The slow groove radiates like the hot, southern sun. There are a few arrangements available, but Gene Puerling’s is still the yardstick. If your group is advanced enough to handle the dense harmonies, this selection can’t be beat. The solo in mm. 33-48 can be played or scatted (either verbatim or improvised). Puerling’s arrangement is harder to locate than some others, but it is actually still available if your dealer is willing to dig a little. If you reach a dead end, note that it is included in the anthology The Best of Gene Puerling, which is worth owning.
  • A Nightengale Sang in Berkley Square (arr. Gene Puerling) Hal Leonard
    Gene Puerling’s arrangement for The Manhattan Transfer still stands as the pinnacle of unaccompanied vocal jazz ensemble ballads. It actually earned a Grammy in 1982, and with good reason. There are other TMT arrangements available in print, including Tuxedo Junction (arr. Jerry Nowak, pub. Hal Leonard), Route 66 (arr. Dick Averre, pub. Hal Leonard), Java Jive (arr. Kirby Shaw, pub. Hal Leonard; also available in SSAA and SAB), and others.
  • The Creole Love Call (Duke Ellington, arr. Paul Kuhn) Hal Leonard
    The King’s Singers performed and recorded an unaccompanied version of this standard in the style of the Comedian Harmonists and Mills Brothers. Originally conceived as an instrumental number, Paul Kuhn’s arrangement uses phonemes to approximate instrumental sounds. As a result, your concert gains a novelty piece without skimping on quality. The arrangement is scored for SATBBB, but can be easily performed SAATBB. The arrangement was recorded on the group’s CD, A Tribute to the Comedian Harmonists, and hearing it can help clear up some of the atypical score markings. Pay careful attention to the instructions at the bottom of page 6 before the first rehearsal. Watching a video of the King’s Singers performing this piece can also help understand what the arranger was going for.


  • Tangerine (arr. Phil Mattson) Shawnee
    Nothing adds spice to a concert like a Latin American selection, and jazz programs are no different. Phil Mattson is one of the most knowledgeable vocal jazz minds operating today. This score is fun and sassy. Feel free to add some light percussion. Kirby Shaw also has an arrangement of “Tangerine” available (Hal Leonard).
  • Begin the Beguine (Cole Porter, arr. Greg Jasperse) Alfred
    This tune is from the 1935 musical Jubilee, but survives as a standard of the jazz repertory. It was not intended by Cole Porter as a Latin jazz number (that fad wouldn’t start in earnest for another couple of decades), but Greg Jasperse’s arrangement does have a decidedly Latin feel. The score is thick with the rhythmic momentum and smooth harmonic flow that we have come to expect from Mr. Jasperse. It is scored for SATB. Begin the Beguine is also included in the medley Classic Cole Porter arranged by Mac Huff (Hal Leonard), available for SAB, 2-part, or SATB.
  • The Girl From Ipanema (arr. Ed Lojeski) Hal Leonard
    Since its release in 1962, this song’s popularity has not waned. It was written in honor of a beautiful girl who would stroll down the beach past a caf
The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!