Vocal Jazz Harmony

Jazz emerged in early 20th century America, and was, at its height, the popular music of its time. Emerging from music halls and minstrelsy on one hand, and the cotton fields and churches of the South on the other, jazz first took the country by storm in the 1920's, which was dubbed The Jazz Age.  While it can certainly be said that many of the most celebrated jazz musicians were instrumentalists, we posit that it is as a showcase for the voice that jazz is at its most divine. For a singer, the essential elements that define jazz stylistically improvisation, phrasing, syncopated ãswinging  rhythms coupled with the addition of scat, are an ideal recipe for music that is complex, challenging and deeply satisfying.

When you combine several voices at once, the reward is that much greater. The harmony groups of the 30's, such as the Mills Brothers and the Boswell Sisters, ushered in a wave of singing groups that rose to fame in the Big Band Era of the 40's, including the Pied Pipers (Tommy Dorsey) Modernaires (Glenn Miller) and the Andrews Sisters. However, the best was yet to come. With the Hi-Lo's and Four Freshmen at the top of the vocal jazz hierarchy, record stores were jammed with vocal trios, quartets and quintets of every description! Vocal music continued its chart success even as rock and roll captured the imagination of America's youth. The Singers Unlimited, the Swingle Singers and later, the Manhattan Transfer showed that jazz was here to stay.

Though the recordings of many of the artists just mentioned do feature some instrumental accompaniment, jazz harmonies are ideally suited to an a cappella setting as well. Today's jazz a cappella luminaries continue the tradition of excellence established by their forbears. Recent recordings by the Real Group, Vox One, Rajaton and SoVoSo, as well as the Swingle Singers (who, with new membership under the direction of Ward Swingle, are one of the most prolific a cappella jazz groups performing today), are as sublime and inspired as those of their predecessors. So, come along with us and explore our vast collection of vocal jazz CD's, the largest selection of jazz vocal harmony recordings to be found anywhere.


the Contemporary Vocal Jazz Groups

One of the most popular music forms of the last century, jazz comes in many styles, from the all-instrumental and accompanied to our favorite - vocal. It's an art form that is so identified with the United States, and yet so much great jazz comes from talented groups around the world. Doesn't matter, though, because Jazz transcends language and national borders - warm, luscious tones, smooth sounds and powerful, emotive chords are great anywhere. And vocal jazz is just the icing on a very smooth and delightful cake.


the Contemporary Vocal Jazz CDs

The only thing better than sitting in a small, intimate club, listening to a smooth vocal jazz group deliver powerful music is taking that group's music away with you, sticking it into the CD player, and enjoying it in the privacy of your own home. With sounds so warm you can wrap yourselves in them like a comfy afghan, whether you're a fan of male groups, female groups or those who have the best of both worlds ˆ male and female voices - you'll find at least one group whose music you want to take home and cuddle up to here.


the Vocal Jazz Instructional Material

Books, videos, CDs, plus some packages that pair books and CDs - everything you need to learn to sound like your heroes is right here in our vocal jazz instructional section.  Whether you're at the beginner level or have been singing jazz for a while and want to improve your abilities, there's something here for you. These are world-class, internationally-renowned educators, and it's a can't-miss opportunity to learn from them without having to pay tens of thousands of dollars in tuition to Berklee, Western Michigan, UCLA


the Vocal Jazz Harmony Arrangements

Our arrangements our compiled from a variety of sources to provide the best selection possible. Most of them are designed for the group at the intermediate skill level. Though some of the songs included within this category are in fact popular or traditional compositions, it is the style of the arrangement that we classify as jazz. Please contact our staff if you have a question about any of the titles on this page; we will be happy to consult with you personally.


the Vocal Jazz Songbooks for Solo Female Voice

The United States has a long and wonderful tradition of producing a long line of talented female jazz singers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vauighn and Billie Holiday to contemporary jazz singers such as Ann Hampton Callaway and Alicia Keys. We offer here a selection of songbooks of songs as sung by these singers. Some are for PVG and otthers have accomapniement CDs to help you learn and perform.


the Vocal Jazz Songbooks for Solo Male Voices

Everybody love a talented crooner singing a great standard and boy has there been some great male jazz singers over the years. From "Ol' Blue Eyes" himself to other greats such as Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole we offer here a selection of songbooks from many of these performers singing from the great American Songbook.


the Vocal Jazz DVDs

One of the great things about being able to take home a video recording is that the performers are immortalized in what may well be their heyday, performing material that they may not be doing anymore; it may even be a page of history of a group that's not performing together anymore. We at Primarily A Cappella carry documentaries, DVDs from award-winning, industry-leading groups and even feature films, so if you're a vocal jazz fan, go wild - this is where you can see shows & stories that most fans just dream of.


the Vintage Jazz Harmony Groups

In the pre- and post-WWII era, the term “popular” music took on a whole new meaning. Performing groups of that age were some of the first to have the mass commercial appeal the current generation is so accustomed to their stars having. And these vintage harmony groups deserved their status! They inspired generations of close harmony groups to emulate their sound, and current groups owe much of their history to these exquisite, talented singers who paved the way for them. Explore the history, and enjoy it, too. Consider these recordings museums on CD!


the Vintage Jazz CDs

Male Vintage Harmony - Vintage never goes out of fashion. These recordings are a period of history – in many cases, they are from the artists who made these songs so ubiquitous to the vocal music world. We’ve all heard many modern groups sing tunes like “Under the Boardwalk” – but in these vintage recordings, you can hear some of the first groups ever to sing these songs. They don’t make recordings like this anymore. If you enjoy the origins of the modern a cappella world, you’ll love these albums.

Female Vintage Harmony - Now this was a memorable era of music! The original girl-group era featured some of the most talented siblings ever heard on popular radio. In many of these recordings can be found the precursor of women's barbershop, and the inspiration for many of today's female vocal jazz groups. Genetic blend is a wonderful, all-too-rare thing, and many of these recordings feature talented family groups with some of the sweetest blending chords you'll hear. Even the groups that aren't all sisters just ooze the sound of talent and skill. You may not have been around when this music was new, but it's never too late to discover it.

Mixed Voice Vintage Harmony - We dare you not to know the words to most of the songs in this category. You know these songs. It doesn’t matter what generation you’re from, you grew up with these songs. And you hear groups doing them all the time. But you don’t hear them all that often sung the way these masters do them… These are some of the finest vocal harmony groups ever to grace the stage, and even in some cases 50 or more years since the albums were recorded, you can hear why. It’s a peek into the way the music world worked before computers allowed engineers to correct the singers’ voices – when it was all talent, and what talent it was.


the Vocal Jazz Christmas

Christmas music is a genre of its own, but one of the great things about holiday tunes is that they can be sung in almost any style and genre, too. You've heard many of these classics before, you've probably even sung most of them, but you've never heard or sung them like this! And that's not even going into the beauty of the holiday originals some of these terrific groups have written. Whether you choose to explore the work of a group you're not familiar with, or revisit a group you already know that you love, you'll find some luscious sounds with which to wrap yourself in a holiday spirit here.


the Vintage Harmony Christmas


Nope. As it turns out, popular groups recording holiday albums really is not just a modern trend. Whether it's the movie & music stars of the '40s and '50s, or the family on which one of the most popular holiday movies of all time was based, these golden age Christmas recordings (and modern recordings in the golden age style) are not just celebrations of the Christmas holiday season, but they evoke an earlier, more simple time. For cozy, comforting December music, these familiar groups and their great recordings are where you want to go


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