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Carmen Nikol

The Carmen Nikol Vocalese Experience is a musical project in which the innovative singer / lyricist / composer Carmen Nikol sings vocalese, for the first time in the history of jazz, in Spanish.

What is vocalese? Vocalese is the setting of lyrics to established jazz orchestral instrumentals. The word was coined by jazz critic Leonard Feather to describe the first Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross album, Sing a Song of Basie. On that album, overdubbing was used so that the three singers using Hendricks' lyrics could replace the entire horn section of the Count Basie Orchestra. This is one type of vocalese. The other being the earlier style pioneered by Eddie Jefferson and King Pleasure, where one solo instrument's part is replaced by a single singer. The latter is the style that Carmen Nikol practices.

Vocalese should not be confused with "scat", though one is commonly mistaken for the other. "Scat" is singing nonsense syllables, generally to a melody which is improvised on the spot. Vocalese is singing words to a pre-arranged tune.

Telling a story through a solo is a common trend in vocalese. Kurt Elling's "Those Clouds Are Heavy, You Dig?" is an adaptation of Rainer Maria Rilke's story "How the Thimble Came to be God" set to a Paul Desmond solo. Jon Hendriks' "Cottontail" retells the familiar children's tale "Peter Cottontail" to Duke Ellington's tune. Carmen Nikol tends more to emerge herself in the role of others and tell a story from this imaginary character's perspective. The listener, before he (or she) realizes it, is living the story with Carmen as she tells it.

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