The Evolution of Ella Fitzgerald's Syllabic Choices in Scat Singing: A Critical Analysis of Her Decca Recordings: 1943-1952
Abstract: This study examines the evolution of Ella Fitzgerald's scat syllable vocabulary during a key developmental period in her career when she was recording for Decca Records. Between 1943 and 1952, Fitzgerald established the syllabic vocabulary that would serve as a defining characteristic of her improvisational style for the rest of her career. Fitzgerald is commonly praised as the greatest vocal improviser in jazz history, but while much has been written about Fitzgerald's melodic and harmonic approach to jazz improvisation, little has been written about her syllabic approach. Timbre and articulation are considered to be vital elements of any jazz musician's style; the study examines the changes in Ella Fitzgerald's syllabic approach through transcription and analyses of thirteen scat solos recorded during this time period, using scat syllable choices to discuss timbre and articulation. This analysis provides a model for further research of its kind, as well as informing historically accurate performance practice by both teachers and students of jazz singing.
Music Theory Resources
During the Summer of 2020, Justin undertook a fairly unique project: creating a series of documents providing examples of standard Music Theory and Aural Skills concepts, but highlighting examples from jazz songs written by African American and Latin American composers. Eventually, Justin added a document devoted to examples from Stevie Wonder's music. This resource will continue to expand.
Examples from Jazz Songs by African-American and Latin American Writers
Music Theory Concepts - Jazz Songs by African American and Latin American Writers - 5) Additional Concepts
Music Theory Concepts - Jazz Songs by African American and Latin American Writers - 6) Contrafacts
Examples from Rock, Pop, R&B, and Hip Hop
Selected Conference Clinics and Research Presentations
Sing Like a Pianist/Play Like a Singer: Advice for the Piano/Vocal Duo and the Self-Accompanying Singer - 2023 JEN Conference
This clinic, as the title implies, centers around strategies for making the piano/vocal duo as rewarding of an artistic experience as possible, from the perspective of both the pianist and singer. The handout includes several written examples highlighting effective piano/voice interaction.
The Ten Habits of Highly Effective Scat Singers (Revisited) - 2021 JENX Online Conference
In this research presentation and paper, Justin revisited the section that I wrote for Diana Spradling's Jazz Singing: Developing Artistry and Authenticity a decade after the fact to see if his conclusions still held up. He also edited the scat solo transcriptions that accompanied the original article.
If I Don't Scat Sing, How Can I Teach It? - 2020 SWACDA Conference
Presented as part of the Vocal Jazz Immersion Day at the 2020 SWACDA Conference, this session focused on providing teachers uncomfortable with teaching vocal improvisation with tools to help their students succeed.
Vocal Improvisation: It's a Matter of Style - 2020 JEN Conference
In this clinic, Justin discussed the importance of crafting improvised scat solos in a way that made them extensions of the original song, in terms of both melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, and - ultimately - stylistic concepts. He also included sample solos in a variety of styles on the jazz standard "There Will Never Be Another You."
The Ella-Ments of Scat Articulation: Developing Syllabic Vocabulary Through Analysis and Application of Ella Fitzgerald's Improvisational Concepts - 2018 JEN Conference
Justin crafted this clinic, inspired by his Dissertation research, to illustrate different concepts of syllabic groupings in Ella Fitzgerald's scat solos, and also to show how they can be applied in the classroom and the private studio.
How to Perform and Communicate as a Duo Using Guitar Approaches to Vocal Accompaniment - 2018 JEN Conferece (co-presented with John Baboian)
Berklee School of Music Professor of Guitar John Baboian and Justin developed a clinic to discuss the art of the guitar/vocal duo, inspired in large part by master classes that they had given together at the Halewynstichting Jazz Workshop in Belgium.
The Evolution of Ella Fitzgerald's Syllabic Choices in Scat Singing: A Critical Analysis of Her Decca Recordings, 1943-1952 - 2017 JEN Conference
In this research presentation, Justin presented the key findings from his Dissertation research at the University of North Texas.
Miscellaneous Articles and Handouts
"Another You" - Jazz Piano Chord Comping and Bass Line Construction
Crafted for The Jazz Harmony Retreat, this presents a step-by-step guide to comping chord voicings and bass lines on the jazz standard "There Will Never Be Another You" at gradually increasing levels of complexity.
Ella Fitzgerald: syllabic choice in scat singing and her timbral syllabic development between 1944 and 1947
The research that eventually led to Justin's Dissertation.
Pedagogy for the Jazz Singer
Co-written with Diana Spradling, retired Adjunct Assistant Professor of Voice and Vocal Pedagogy and Founding Director of the Applied Studio Technology Laboratory at Western Michigan University. Published in Choral Journal, Vol. 55, No. 11