is already considered by critics to be a jazz singer of innovative status. Nikol, known for being the creator of vocalese (the art of putting lyrics to established instrumental music) in the Spanish language, "...could have fallen back on the typical melodies of the day, but instead has opted for the discipline of jazz, she's taken melodies that were based on improvisation, and has added lyrics to these more or less known instrumental solos. Carmen Nikol's done nothing less than invent spanish vocalese" (Juanma Játiva author of the book "Billie Holiday"). Jorge García, author of the book "El y Ella Los Mejores Voces del Jazz" (Men and Women, The Best Voices In Jazz), proclaims that "....Without predecessors she has literally taken up the difficult challenge of inventing a new idiom: vocalese in Spanish."
Born in 1975 in Barcelona, daughter of Andalusian parents, Carmen, "....an artist with an extraordinary natural talent for music" (Jorge Garcia), was influenced early on by a wide variety of musical diversity. Her first encounter with singing was her participation in local choral groups. An activity in which she enjoyed right through her college years as one of the outstanding members of the "Canto Coral".
In 1998 she moved to Valencia and began to work singing jazz and blues with musicians such as Brian Trainor, David Pastor, Jeff Jerolamon and Richie Ferrer amongst others. She worked as a vocalist with the "All Jazz Big Band" and she performed concerts in duo with guitarist Joan Soler in a group they called "En Pausa".
But it's the year 2003 that Carmen formed the "Carmen Nikol Vocalese Experience" and began to be recognized as the spanish vocalese innovator. In June of the same year she went into the studio to record a CD's worth of material utilizing this art form (vocalese) which originated in the USA in it's native English language. American jazz vocal pioneers such as
King Pleasure, Eddie Jefferson and Jon Hendricks took already recorded improvised solos and placed lyrics to them. Nikol builds on this tradition by applying it to her own language (Spanish), the results are spectacular. As Jorge Garcia puts it, she's "a jazz stylist in her own right, combining a keen sense of drama with a strong capacity for writing original story lines." Juanma Játiva adds "...from the perspective of the nonconformist woman, transparent in her realistic texts."
Nikol's interpretation vibrates with an emotion rarely found in jazz singers today. As music critic Enrique Monfort proclaims, "when Carmen Nikol sings a ballad, there's a sensitivity that seems to seep out from her very pores". Juanma Játiva's interpretation is that Carmen sings " with an almost defiant character" and Jorge Garcia adds "...free of superficialities".
One important observation to be made about Carmen's style is her own personal stamp, that "Spanish tinge", which never fails to manifests itself throughout her work. Or as Spanish author Jorge Garcia expresses it, "...one can't help put feel something that hit's home with us all."
An interesting point not to be forgotten also is how she can sing such difficult passages and make them seem so natural and easy. As Garcia says "Another outstanding quality of Nikol is she sings the complex original improvisations in such an effortless manner...."
In summary, Carmen Nikol delights us with the exquisiteness and elegance of her sublime yet daily life lyrics. An innovative presentation "...filled with furious passion, sung from the heart and soul", ".... always giving the effect of extraordinary freshness". ".....a challenge met with elegance and powerful expression".
Carmen Nikol is an artist of extraordinary natural musical talent. Without predecessors, she has literally taken up the difficult challenge of inventing a new idiom:
vocalese in spanish. Carmen has become a jazz stylist in her own right, combining a keen sense of drama with a strong capacity for writing original story lines. Although well within the jazz tradition, one can't help put feel something that hit's home with us all.. Another outstanding quality of Nikol is how she sings the complex original improvisations in such an effortless manner, always giving the effect of extraordinary freshness"
"Ellos y ellas, las mejores voces del jazz"
(Man & Women, The Outstanding Voices Of Jazz)
JORGE GARCÍA Jazz Critic and author of
"Los mejores 100 discos de jazz"
(The 100 Best Jazz Records)
"An innovative spanish jazz record filled with furious passion, sung from the heart and soul. When Carmen Nikol sings a ballad, there is a sensitivity that seems to seep out from her very pores."
ENRIQUE E. MONFORT Music Critic. -
Carmen Nikol sings with an almost defiant character from the perspective of the nonconformist woman, transparent in her realistic texts. She could have fallen back on the typical melodies of the day, but instead has opted for the discipline of jazz, she has taken melodies that were based on improvisation, and has added lyrics to these more or less known instrumental solos. Carmen Nikol has done nothing less than invent spanish vocalese, a challenge met with elegance and powerful expression.
JUANMA JÁTIVA Music critic for "El País" and author of the book
The Carmen Nikol Vocalese Experience is a musical project in which the innovative singer / lyricist / composer Carmen Nikol sings vocalese for the first time in the history of jazz, in Spanish.
Below we have Carmen explaining the lyrics in some of her repertoire.
LA FIERA (The Beast)
This is based on Stan Getz's interpretation of Chick Coreas' "La Fiesta". We use a flamenco rhythm called "Bulería". It's a comical story of a young couple who go for a picnic in the mountain and are surprised by the presence of a large ferocious bull. The girl (María) runs off in a pannic, and leaves the guy (Juan) standing there to face his apparent doom. When from nowhere a cow appears and what seems to be the solution (thinking that the bull would follow the cow) becomes an additive problem because the cow falls in love with Juan. Now, the bull is really mad! This guy is not only in his territory, he just stole his girl! Anyway, it ends up that Juan is so scared that he has an accident in his pants in which the cow finds quite repulsive, so she leaves, with the bull close behind.
ALMA EN PENA (Pitiful Soul)
This is from the point of view of a woman in the process of leaving her relationship with an abusive alcoholic. We listen as she pleads with him and finally leaves him. The melody is based on Freddie Hubbard's solo on "Red Clay".
¿POR QUÉ? (Why?)
You know this one! I sing the first chorus in English based on the way I heard Dexter Gordon play it. After the piano solo, I go into Spanish, up to the bridge I'm still pretty much singing what Dexter played, from the bridge on another melodic line came into my head, so I went with it and we just take it out from there. The Spanish lyric is pretty much an extension of what the English lyrics are.
This is a straight ahead swinging bebop blues based on Dexter Gordon's solo on JJ Johnsons' "Wee Dot". The main character in this lyric is pleading with her man to "be cool". It seems the preassure of getting married has effected his sexual performance. By the end of the piece, he finally gets it together.
Based on the Hang Mobly tune "This I Dig Of You". Taken from the last two choruses of Mobly's solo, the lyric's about a widow's struggle to come back to a normal life after her pain and morning loss.
This story, based on Sonny Rollins classic solo in "St. Thomas", is the tale of a woman, abused as a child, who grows into being one of the leading madammes in some of the most prestigious bordellos in Europe. She uses her influential position to seek out child abusers and to make sure that they never molest anyone again.
COME RAIN OR COME SHINE
In this standard by Johnny Mercer & Harold Arlen I sing the first chorus in English based on an instrumental interpretation of tenor saxophonist Zoot Simms. Then, I switch to Spanish in which I start out singing Zoot's solo but, before too long, I'm into my own thing. The Spanish lyrics are simply an extension of the English.
NI DIOS (Not Even God)
This is my war protest song which is adapted from Dizzy Gillespies' "Con Alma" and taken from the melodies that Stan Getz played.
It is taken from the Juan Tizol / Duke Ellington tune "Perdido", since I'm a girl, I'm
perdida. It's a romping swinger borrowed from a Flip Philips' improvisation. I tried to make the lyrics on this one to be as happy and carefree as Flip's solo sounds".
The Carmen Nikol Vocalese Experience is normally made up of Carmen Nikol (vocals) accompanied by piano, bass and drums.
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Last Modified Date: 30/06/2005