This study looks at jazz elements including vocalists and accompaniments as portrayed by Carmen McRae in the song “Round Midnight” and Louis Armstrong in the song “Hotter than That”. The two jazz artists portray their brilliance in composition as seen in their variation between vocals and instrumentation.
Carmen wrote the song “Round Midnight” at the end of the Second World War, when he was only 18. He performed the song with his band a few years later, after he had mastered various styles of other musicians. The song “Round Midnight” is a dark and beautiful ballad that provides a fresh and original sound that is timeless.
Carmen portrays a brilliant understanding of the lyric and its placement as he plays the chord during rubato sections. The phrasing by McRae shows independence in the arrangement of chords to match the key words in the lyrics. He brings out the mood of the song by adjusting his voicing to encase the melody in a supportive manner.
“Hotter than Hot” by Louis Armstrong is identified as one of the greatest jazz recordings in the history of jazz music. Louis brings out a crisp and live performance by skillfully combining his trumpet and vocals in the piece. The song comprises a lead from the piano, a trombone solo by Kid Orv and intro licks by Louis.
The song shows exceptional understanding of roles by the musicians, with Louis playing the vocals and trumpet, Kid Ory the trombone, Johnny Dodds the clarinet, Lil Armstrong the piano, Lonnie Johnson the guitar, and Johnny St. Cyr the banjo.
The performance involves collaboration between the original “Hot Five Group” and Lonnie, a featured musician. Louis’ brilliance as a solo vocalist is evident, which explains his dominance in the group’s performances. The song has a higher tendency towards jam sounds on the chord than it has on melody. “Hotter than That” uses an eight bar introduction with a fast tempo.
It starts with a trumpet solo by Armstrong, which portrays a strong melodic notion with a combination of an energetic sound and a stylish swing. The song presents the rhythmic sense of Armstrong, using his vocals behind the beat and a set of dotted quarter notes that deviate from the original beat of the melody.
The melody by Armstrong contains various styles, including the use of scat singing as seen in the repeated use of “RIP” with a rising glissando, and the invention of the word “BEBOP”, which was picked up as a reference to the jazz movement in the 1940s.
For instance, Louis’ performance in the first chorus is serene, as he approaches the break in a rhythmical way. The appeal of jazz music is seen in the energy, brilliance, dominance and confidence of the vocalists with the support of the entire group in their instrumentation. The rapid change of emotion in instrumentation is a feature of jazz music.
This is observed in the performance of “Hotter than That” when Dodds plays his clarinet solo with an angry opening that is supported by Lil the piano. The urgency of the two instruments prepares the audience for beautiful music that follows the performance, as Louis varies his tempo while singing and applying the hornlike scat solos.
Jazz music exhibits a formidable partnership between vocals and instruments. The brilliance of instrumentalists is seen when Lonnie Johnson plays his guitar solo using the single-string ideas, as he skillfully bends his guitar strings to impersonate the moans by Louis. Such working relationships between vocalists and accompanists make jazz performances a powerful and timeless source of musical entertainment.
“Round Midnight” by Carmen Sings Monk vs. “Hotter than That” by Louis Armstrong