From DRUM! Magazine’s November 2017 Issue | Text And Music By Danny Gottlieb | Video Lesson Written And Performed By Marc Carmi Smith, With Rick Gordon

In my teachings at the University of North Florida, I often find that when I ask a drum student to sing eighth-notes in a jazz study, the drummer usually doesn’t sound like a horn player singing; they sound like a drummer, and the phrasing is usually very stiff. I strongly feel that if you can’t sing eighth-notes like a horn player, with conviction and groove, your swing feel will not really sound authentic.

A solution that has worked for me is to listen to, and sing along with, top jazz vocalists who scat sing, and then copy their phrasing. One of the greatest of these incredible singers is Sarah Vaughan, known as “Sassy.” I recommend two of her tracks: One is “Sassy’s Blues” from a concert in Copenhagen (1963’s Sassy Swings The Tivoli), and the other, “Just Friends,” is from her 1981 album Send In The Clowns, with the Count Basie Orchestra and the unbelievable Harold Jones on drums. Both albums can be found through Internet sources.

Here’s a transcription of the rhythms she sings during a shout chorus in the middle of the “Just Friends” recording with the Basie band. And as a bonus, I’ve written out Harold Jones’ drum fills and comping for this section, as well.

The vocal phrases aren’t written, and you must closely listen to the track, memorize it, and sing along with it. Sassy’s phrases like sha du d’n do, sha didy a dit du ah, etc., just have to be heard and copied.

But they sure will help you swing!


Danny Gottlieb has performed with Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin, and Gil Evans, and is currently the drummer with Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band. He has won four Grammy Awards and is a Professor of Jazz Studies at the University Of North Florida in Jacksonville.