Primary Instrument: Vocalist
When the L.A. Jazz Choir was founded in 1978 by Dr. Gerald Eskelin, no one anticipated that its very first album, Listen, would be nominated for a Grammy in the Best Jazz Vocal Group Performance category, but when two years later its second album, From All Sides, was also nominated, the L.A. Jazz Choir knew it was on to something.
A European tour quickly followed, and along with it, invitations to sing at the Hollywood Bowl, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, major jazz festivals, including the Montreaux and North Sea Jazz Festivals, and other highly prestigious concerts, conventions and jazz series. As the only known large professional vocal jazz ensemble, the group consisted of six women and six men, dedicated to unique interpretations of classic big-band/swing music as well as mainstream and avant-garde vocal jazz.
In 1990, the Rodgers/Hart/Hammerstein album which the L.A. Jazz Choir recorded with Rosemary Clooney made it to Billboard's Jazz charts; Clooney has invited the group on numerous occasions to sing at her celebrated Singers' Salute to the Songwriters which have featured such stars as: Liza Minelli, Linda Ronstadt, Michael Crawford, Peggy Lee, and many others.
The L.A. Jazz Choir celebrated its 10th anniversary by performing the world premiere of the jazz cantata The Green House by Milcho Leviev and Scott Guy. In 1996, they were invited to sing at the Western Division convention of the American Choral Directors Association. The following year they appeared at the national ACDA convention in San Diego.
In 1998, the group retired after two decades of educating, concertizing, and recording. During its history, more than a hundred singers participated in the workshop and/or the performing group. A substantial number of alums are now working as professional vocalists, some performing with well- known groups, many following solo careers and/or studio singing. Judging from the feedback, the musical influence of the L.A. Jazz Choir continues today.
Listen! was recorded live in 1980 when the original L.A. Jazz Choir returned from a tour of the European Jazz Festivals, including Montreaux and North Sea. It was released in 1983 as an LP and nominated for a Grammy the following year. Guest soloists Sue Raney and Carl Anderson had previously appeared with the group, and graciously offered to participate in this recording. Pianist Dwight Elrich provides solid accompaniment and contributed the haunting arrangement of I Only Have Eyes for You.
But the real stars of this recording are the 18 men and women who lived with this music for many months, seasoning and shaping it until it became a unified artistic expression. 10 songs, from Bye Bye Blues and Jumpin' With Symphony Sid to Here's that Rainy Day, It Had to Be You and a scattish Woodchopper's Ball. Nor can we forget a sweet Let There Be Love, the style-switching Hurry On Down, a joyous, romping Sweet Georgia Brown and a smoky, bluesy Everything I Have Is Yours. Let's see we have the great jazz classics, one of the greatest jazz choirs of all time in their prime, singing their tails off, live just back from blowing away some of the great European jazz festivals, and you've got the Grammy nomination.
The 25 women (The Girls in the liner notes), and 20 Boys in the LA Jazz Choir, directed by Gerald Eskelin is a smorgasbord of tempting jazz treats. There are liberal helpings of straight-ahead big-band meat-and-potato hits (Tuxedo Junction, Love Is A Joy, The Jersey Bounce); entrees with a light latin dressing (I Could Write A Book, Dream On, What Is This Thing Called Love); more exotic tastes (Sboguvane, Don's Song); something light (Jim, Jam, Jump, Sweet Georgia Brown); something with a little scat (Jumpin' With Symphony Sid, Everybody's Boppin') and cool with a velvety sauce (Blue In Green). from all sides is a saucy, spirited joy from one of the best Jazz choirs in the world! All accompanied, from a small jazz ensemble to a full big band.