Patty Waters

PATTY WATERS must be acknowledged as a vocalist who has tested the limits of the human voice's capabilities. Since her brief recording career in the mid-'6O's, she has come to be appreciated as a vocal innovator not just in jazz but in contemporary music as a whole. Much of her repertoire was given over to hushed piano solo ballads in which her voice could fade to a whisper that was barely audible, but what really attracted attention were her avant-garde outings in which she stretched and mutated her voice with contorted shrieks and wails that could be downright blood-curdling. She was heard in a nightclub in the early '6O's by Albert Ayler, who recommended her to the ESP label; the first side of her 1965 debut recording (”Sings”) was given over entirely to self-composed solo piano miniatures, leaving listeners somewhat unprepared for the second side, which consisted solely of her 13-minute interpretation of “Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair.” Building into hair-raising screams and vocal improvisations, it remains the performance for which she is most noted. Sadly, she only recorded one more album, the live “College Tour,” just a few months later; a more determinedly avant-garde effort than her debut, it featured entirely different, mostly self-composed songs. Ms. Waters often eschewed words altogether for wordless moan-scats and wails, and opted for a fuller band backing, including appearances by pianists Ran Blake and Burton Greene

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