Roy Nathanson Sotto Voce

Sotto Voce is another stimulating mix of the possibilities for instruments and voices within jazz, coming from someone who has done this sort of thing throughout his career. Sotto Voce is high concept the whole way through, but a well executed one. It is a vocal project through and through with each of the five members of the ensemble vocalising and the drum chair filled by the beatboxing of Napoleon Maddox. Nathanson is the narrator, with a delivery somewhere between Jack Kerouac and Shel Silverstein. The music is tough to summarise. Just as many horn players say that a group without a piano provides them more harmonic freedom, so too does the beatboxing provide more sonic and rhythmic room, which helps maintain the space required for five vocalists. The scope of the material is wide: Roland Kirk’s "The Inflated Tear” gets retrofitted with lyrics, and there’s a funky take on "Sunny,” and a version of "Sunrise Sunset” that rises above schmaltz. There’s some corny humour in the lyrics, but the abstraction in the sax/violin/trombone arrangements and the always inventive "freeboxing” always wins out in the end. A highly unusual but successful effort. (Aum Fidelity)