Last month Miles High Records released the fourth studio recording made by jazz vocalist Erin McDougald. The title of the album is Outside the Soirée, which is also the title of the one of the thirteen tracks that McDougald herself composed. I have to confess that I tend to be difficult when approaching vocal music, probably because, for better or worse, there are certain basic standards of technique that I feel apply to jazz singers just as much as they do to those specializing in opera or art song.
That said, the fact that I may be uncomfortable with McDougald’s approach to pitch may just be an artifact of the expectations I bring to any vocalist. However, even if I grant her the freedom of stylizing beyond the constraints of notation, I must confess that I am at a loss in trying to suss out just where she wants that stylizing to take her. Perhaps there were some clues in the accompanying booklet notes; but the (apparently) handwritten delivery of those notes made them frustratingly illegible.
Perhaps McDougald has ways to deliver her songs in performance that will seize the attention of even the jaded listener. If so, then her delivery technique does not seem to translate into the recorded medium with very much success. On the other hand all of those past listening experiences that have shaped both memories and expectations may just have put my head in the wrong place to appreciate this new recording.