April 30, 2014

Nancy LaMott & Christopher Marlowe


Nope. I never heard her in the flesh, nor have I met the man. In fact, the first time I heard Nancy's voice was through speakers in a tiny store next to an eatery called the Popover Cafe on Columbus and 86th Street here in Manhattan, the very same place that I saw Barbra Streisand come in late one night to have dinner, the surreal thing being my dinner companions had just said her name not two minutes before. Voila! She appeared and mouths fell open. But that's another story. 

This isn't my first post on Nancy LaMott and her pianist, Christopher Marlowe. It's hard to think of them without each other, the latter's elegant arrangements being designed for her voice. For the Contemporary Commercial Music student in the house, they should be required listening. Really. It doesn't get any better than this. 

Sure. Nancy's voice isn't perfect. But it's not about that. Nor should it be. The bel canto student can learn a thing or two as well, perhaps the most salient thing being her ability to tell a story with authenticity and move the listener. The woman is fearless, and goes straight to that joyful hair-on-fire place many exude when young, but then quickly push aside as the concerns of adult life take over. Then there is her ability to sing a ballad with the best of them, a real measure of craft, which is nothing new. Over a century ago, a student of Manuel García by the name of Antoinette Sterling was telling people that ballad singing was the real test of a singer's ability, which is the bread and butter of Nancy's art. Keeping the line within a song or aria, and the meaning within that line for the whole piece, not dropping it for a second? That is something which involves more than clear vowels and a fine legato. What Nancy has beyond these things is heart, which is rather hard to put on a graph, being more than the sum of its parts. Yes, you have to have a voice, skill, and technical security. But what you really need is the unquenchable desire to sing. 

While your tastes may run differently that mine, I believe these two artists are the finest within their field. Listen and learn, and then go practice. 

2 comments:

  1. How well you put it. Nobody else has ever been able to move this listener like these two. I first heard Nancy And Christopher on David Kenney's "Everything Old is New Again" on WBAI, in the mid-90's. It was "Surrey With the Fringe on Top" - as a ballad. It brought chills to my spine and tears to my eyes. It still does. You are right - these two are the finest in the field. How robbed I feel that Nancy is gone!

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Sandy, which comes at a most interesting time, since I spent some time recording "Surrey With the Fringe on Top" today. Nancy LaMott inspires me so much, and I am glad to hear that you share my love for her gift of voice.

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