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Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet: Scat Singing To Its Own Tune

The Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet, left to right: Ginny Carr, alto; Robert McBride, tenor; Holly Shockey, soprano; and Andre Enceneat, bass. The group's new album, <em>Hustlin' for a Gig</em>, came out in May.
The Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet, left to right: Ginny Carr, alto; Robert McBride, tenor; Holly Shockey, soprano; and Andre Enceneat, bass. The group's new album, <em>Hustlin' for a Gig</em>, came out in May.

The Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet has been serenading audiences in its native Washington, D.C., across the country and even as far as France for more than two decades. But its members are finding ways to bring something new to their performances. Bandleader and co-founder Ginny Carr says she wrote the words and music to all 10 songs on the quartet's new album, Hustlin' for a Gig — a relative rarity in a jazz world defined by time-tested standards.

"For me, this is the culmination of what I've always wanted to do with this group," Carr tells NPR's Susan Stamberg. "I've been kind of stealing other people's material, writing other people's material for years, and it was really, definitely, clearly time for us to put our own stamp on the genre and write our own stuff."

Carr says her group's No. 1 focus will still be perfecting its intricate vocal harmonies — a task that, she says, requires a special kind of singer.

"You have to think like an instrumentalist. You have to be an instrumentalist in your head and your voice," she says. "It helps if you have a good voice, but I'm looking for a horn section."

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