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Picks and Pans Review: Spontaneous Inventions

updated 10/06/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/06/1986 01:00AM

Bobby McFerrin

McFerrin is a one-of-a-kind, improvisational vocalist who not only sings but also uses his four-octave voice to create an array of orchestral sounds, from string bass and muted trumpet to brushed cymbals and other percussive effects. The only thing he hasn't figured out yet is how to imitate an acoustic piano. No problem. Herbie Hancock handily takes on that chore for him here, turning Turtle Shoes into a playful blues jam: McFerrin sings a bassline and overdubs vocals that sound like those of a coquettish cabaret vamp. The 36-year-old New Orleans-based musician also adroitly renders a cappella versions of such familiar tunes as the Beatles' From Me to You. At times his vocal reach exceeds his grasp. In his improvised duet with Weather Report saxophonist Wayne Shorter on Walkin', for instance, he tries to introduce so many different instrumental sounds in such rapid succession that he often reels off melodically muddled phrases. McFerrin's music isn't the kind of stuff you can sing in the shower. He performs on this LP, however, with the same baritone-to-soprano range and uncanny rhythmic sense that during his 1982 European tour prompted West German critics to dub him "Stimmwunder"—Wonder Voice. (Blue Note)

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