Katy Bourne


Running Down the Scat

POSTED ON October 05, 2010 | POSTED IN: My Blog | Post A Comment

Hoo-rah!

Tonight is the first meeting of a four week scat workshop with my much beloved teacher and jazz musician extraordinaire Greta Matassa. I signed up for this well over a month ago and am happy and excited to get started tonight. When it comes to scat singing, Greta is a nuclear missile. She’s also one of the sharpest teachers around, and there’s no doubt in my mind that this is going to be a great workshop.

Scat singing mesmerizes me. Throughout the years, I have listened to countless recordings by some of the greatest scat artists in jazz: Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Anita O’ Day to name a few. Each of them holds me in state of jaw-dropping shock and awe. Of course, as a jazz vocalist, I want what they have. Or to be more realistic, I would like to achieve some level of mastery in scat singing so that I too can jump on that train and blast off into improvisational nirvana. But good scatting requires intelligence and chops. It’s interesting that “scat” is also a term for the fecal matter of wild animals. Not to be disgusting or anything, but bad scat singing can often be likened to the aforementioned definition. Obviously, this is something to be avoided at all costs. Thus the workshop is a really good idea.

My own relationship to scat singing is a textbook case of a love-hate relationship. Scat is like a bad boyfriend-sometimes titillating and wonderful but other times, a bit of a disaster. Sometimes when I scat, ideas flow and make sense relative to the harmonic construction of the tune. But other times, well, not. I’d like to improve my consistency in this area. I’d also like to develop more muscularity so that I may better execute rhythmic ideas. These are just some of my goals for the workshop. Obviously, Greta will also have loads of instruction and suggestions to throw at us, especially after hearing us scat. I’m game and ready.

I know that in the grand spectrum of jazz singing, there are many places to land in regards to scat. Some vocalists don’t touch it. Others, like Greta, should probably have their faces carved into Mt. Rushmore because they’ve elevated the art so completely. As for me, I want to have a solid tool kit so that, from time to time, I can wander out to that edge and take that leap with some measure of confidence that I won’t crash and burn completely. This seems like a reasonable goal. Scat is a fun ride. It’s a wild trip. I want to go there and go there often.

As a jazz singer, I am not finished. I will never be finished. There is always more work to do. Learning and growth never stop. (This is pretty much true in any human endeavor.) I am excited for the weeks ahead and for another opportunity to expand and to vibe on something new. With any luck, I will see some improvement and have fun along the way. I guess the proof will be in the scat. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Postscript: Our scat workshop will have a performance at Tula’s on November 10th. I hope you will come out and show us some love!

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Katy Bourne is a Jazz Singer and Writer.