A recent active Facebook discussion in the Vocal Jazz Educators group centered on “Favorite Vocal Jazz Chart.” I said, “it’s like being asked to pick your favorite child!” but in the ensuing comments, a clear pattern emerged.
The favorite by a large margin is Gene Puerling. Among the 50+ comments, arrangements he wrote were mentioned more than 20 times; the next most popular arranger was Darmon Meader, with less than half as many. Even more remarkable is that there was no consensus on the favorite Puerling work – many great pieces emerged as contenders. His oeuvre is wide and deep.
Two things to take away from this:
- I just can’t imagine a similar consensus emerging in a choral group. Even if you just asked favorite chart of the last 50 years (a similar time frame), there would be no one composer who rose so far above the rest. That’s how significant Gene’s legacy is in the vocal jazz world.
- The Puerling arrangements on that list, for the most part, can be done just as successfully with concert choirs as with jazz choirs. Go try his amazing “Fool on the Hill” or “London By Night,” or if you want strict 4-part writing, his “All the Things You Are” (my pick for favorite vocal jazz chart). If you can sing Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque, you can sing Puerling’s All the Things You Are. And you should be.
By my count, more than 20 arrangers were mentioned in the comments of that discussion. Only one was mentioned 20 times.