The world is over-stocked with brilliant solo pianists, but there are precious few good accompanists in the field.3 – Sir Landon Ronald

「世界は優れたソロピアニストであふれていますが、フィールドにはほとんど良い伴奏者がいません。」 - サー・ランドン・ロナルド

The Art of Accompanying(伴奏の芸術)

Much has been written about the improvised solo in jazz but relatively few books deal with the fine art of accompanying another musician. However, jazz pianists must often play an accompaniment role. The jazz pianist is expected to orchestrate, support and enhance the soloist’s melodic lines, whether the soloist is an instrumentalist or vocalist. Using rhythm and harmony, an accompanist must be suggestive yet never intrusive. According to bassist Chuck Israels, the accompanist must apply “fully 90% of his or her consciousness towards ‘living in the body’ of whomever has the lead voice.”4 This attention must be applied in a way that the accompanist experiences every breath, every nuance of muscle tension and timing, and every dynamic change in the music of the ‘lead’ musician.5


Moreover, while supporting the soloist, the accompanist should strive to create a part that is intrinsically interesting and also fits into the whole. Pianist Chick Corea summarized this by saying, “a good accompaniment should be able to stand on its own as a melody.”6 The same is true of vocal accompanying. The vocal accompanist strives to create an unobtrusive accompaniment that is as melodically interesting as the vocal line.


A good accompanist must also be continually in an alert, focused state. The accompanist must have the ability to listen carefully to the other musicians and sensitively adjust to each musical interaction. John di Martino recognizes this delicate relationship between singer and accompanist, stating, “when accompaniment is at its best, you’re at the highest spiritual state and the most selfless. It’s almost a Zen concept. You really want to give to that other person.”7 With all of these factors at play, the accompanist must sublimate the ego to achieve the best results. An accompanist with his or her own agenda will never successfully aid in delivering the musical message of the vocalist.



Before focusing on contemporary vocal accompanists it is important to acknowledge their predecessors. The masterful accompanists can be traced back to several of the great jazz vocalists.8 Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae and Sarah Vaughan worked with the finest pianists in jazz. Tommy Flanagan and Hank Jones are often cited as the top-call accompanists who worked with these vocalists. Three lesser-known accompanists also deserve attention: Ellis Larkins, Jimmy Rowles and Paul Smith.


Although a fine overall pianist, Larkins was particularly known for his sensitive and tasteful vocal accompaniment abilities. “He has dealt with the whole issue of submergence without it messing up his art, “ remarked Phil Schaap. “You have to just totally delete a lot of your personality and needs and ego – or you’re not an accompanist. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to do. If you only think of it as a subtraction, it will never work.”9 Larkins was particularly known for his partnership with Ella Fitzgerald. Ellis and Ella recorded two albums together, Ella Sings Gershwin and Songs in a Mellow Mood. Both albums demonstrate Larkins’s ability to accompany tastefully and simply. Their duets “brought together two artists who could hear around the same corners, anticipating each other’s subtlest shifts of mood.”10 Ella was often criticized for showing a lack of emotion and a certain detachment from the meaning of the lyrics she sang, but these two duo albums belie that claim.11

ラーキンスは全体的に見て優れたピアニストでありながら、特に敏感で上品なボーカル伴奏の能力で知られていました。フィル・シャップは「彼は完全に自己を抑え込むことなく、芸術を崩さずに、その問題に取り組んでいます。伴奏者でなければ、自己や欲求、エゴを完全に排除しなければなりません。それは非常に難しいことです。それを減じるだけと考えるのであれば、うまくいくことはありません」と述べました。ラーキンスは特にエラ・フィッツジェラルドとのパートナーシップで知られていました。エリスとエラは2枚のアルバム、「Ella Sings Gershwin」と「Songs in a Mellow Mood」を共に録音しました。どちらのアルバムも、ラーキンスの上品でシンプルな伴奏能力を示しています。彼らのデュエットは、「同じコーナーを予見し、微妙なムードの変化を感じ取り合うことができる2人のアーティストを結びつけた」と評されています。エラはしばしば感情の欠如や歌詞の意味への一定の距離感を指摘されましたが、これらの2つのデュオアルバムはその主張を裏付けています。

Ella Fitzgerald / Ella Sings Gershwin

Ella Fitzgerald / Songs in a Mellow Mood

An example of this almost telepathic, symbiotic relationship between the Ellis and Ella occurs throughout the track “But Not For Me.” In the first rubato half of the tune Larkins shows support by echoing Ella’s phrases either explicitly, in the right hand after the lyric “but not for me” at 0:26, and “and get that way” at 0:55, or implicitly, by using the same rhythm of her melodic phrase yet changing the notes on “could guarantee” at 0:46. Through a call-and-response procedure the voice and piano seamlessly weave together into a satisfying auditory whole.

ラーキンスとエラのこのほぼテレパシー的で相互依存的な関係の例は、「But Not For Me」というトラック全体にわたって発生します。曲の最初のルバートの半分では、ラーキンスは、0:26での「but not for me」という歌詞の後、0:55での「and get that way」または0:46での「could guarantee」のメロディフレーズをエコーすることで、エラのフレーズをサポートします。コールアンドレスポンスの手順を通じて、声とピアノは無縁の全体に無縁に織り込まれます。

Ella Fitzgerald / Ella Sings Gershwin - But Not For Me

Jimmy Rowles was another frequently requested accompanist among vocalists.He polished his craft working with Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee, Carmen McRae, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, the latter whom he felt was the greatest of all the female musicians.11 Singers greatly appreciated his use of space and silence. Indeed, Rowles steadfastly believed there were two rules of accompanying: anticipation and subduing oneself. “If you don’t subdue yourself, the listener is going to get confused because the piano part will be competing for the listener’s attention.”12 It is possible to subdue oneself and not hamper one’s unique voice. As Schaap noted previously, subduing oneself is not merely an act of subtraction, as this would disrupt and alter one’s individual style. By subduing oneself, Rowles means playing less of what one would normally play but still retaining one’s original identity. Finally, depending on the temperament of the vocalist, Rowles’s additional advice is simple and to the point: “Don’t play too much, don’t play too loud, and don’t play the melody.”13 These words concisely sum up the accompaniment process, yet they are much easier said than done.


Likewise, lesser-known pianist Paul Smith accompanied many of the great jazz vocalists including Anita O’Day, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, with whom he recorded and toured in the 1950’s and 1960’s, later becoming her musical director in the 1980’s. Smith enjoyed working with Fitzgerald but noted, “you could play any chord changes for her, just so you didn’t play a million notes.”14 The virtuosic Smith made the inimitable Art Tatum imitable on his album The Art Tatum Touch, yet when accompanying vocalists like Fitzgerald, he always made them sound at their best without getting in their way. An excellent representation of his duo work with Fitzgerald can be heard on the album The Intimate Ella. Here, the two musicians are completely attuned to each other. Smith’s restraint and power of subtle suggestion helps to bring Ella’s emotional side to the surface, notably on the powerful tracks “Angel Eyes” and “Black Coffee.”

同様に、あまり知られていないピアニストのポール・スミスは、アニタ・オデイ、サラ・ヴォーン、エラ・フィッツジェラルドなど、多くの偉大なジャズ・ボーカリストたちを伴奏してきました。彼は1950年代と1960年代に録音やツアーを共にしたフィッツジェラルドとの仕事を楽しんでいましたが、「何百万ものノートを演奏しない限り、彼女にはどんなコード進行でも弾けた」と指摘しています。技巧派のスミスは、アルト・テイタムの真似をすることができるアルバム『The Art Tatum Touch』でその才能を発揮しましたが、フィッツジェラルドなどのボーカリストと共演する際には、自分たちの演奏に邪魔されずに最高のパフォーマンスをするように尽力しています。彼がフィッツジェラルドとデュオで演奏したアルバム『The Intimate Ella』は、お互いが完全に同調していることを示しています。スミスの節制と微妙な提案力は、特に「Angel Eyes」と「Black Coffee」といった力強い曲目で、フィッツジェラルドの感情的な側面を表現するのに役立っています。

Paul Smith / The Art Tatum Touch (見つかりませんでした)

Ella Fitzgerald / The Intimate Ella

Larkins, Rowles and Smith should be more well-known. Their often self-effacing personae and lack of exposure as soloists or as sidemen to major instrumental figures, what Hank Jones achieved with Charlie Parker, and what Tommy Flanagan attained with Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, could explain their lack of notoriety. In this study these three lesser-known pianists were mentioned by many of the participants. Before their time there were few accompanists so devoted and passionate about the art of vocal accompanying. Those “in the know” are aware of their value and contribution to jazz vocal accompaniment. They set the standard for future vocal accompanists and still provide models of excellence.




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