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Culture news, 06.05.2004 17:11

Bobby McFerrin will sing a new tune for Saint-Petersburg

Bobby McFerrin Bobby McFerrin, the unique U.S. vocal improvizer and winnerof 10 Grammy awards performs at 7 p.m. on May 13 at the Shostakovich Philharmonic, Grand Hall.

Vocalist Bobby McFerrin is a hard one to classify, both because of his cross-genre involvements--jazz, pop and classical--and because he's far from being just a conventional singer, relying on an odd but always musical variety of vocal "tricks" to flesh out his performances.

McFerrin was born in New York City on March 11, 1950 to a classically oriented family--both his parents were opera singers--and during his early years he studied piano. He worked with Jon Hendrix--a master of inventive scat, a wordless, often improvised style of vocalizing that approximates the approach of a jazz instrumentalist--before making his debut with an eponymous disc in 1982. McFerrin often performed solo, his singular talent being the ability to offer up a menagerie of sounds, often sounding like two voices at once,supplying rhythmic accompaniment by thumping his chest. As with the multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk, his combination of great facility and instinctual showmanship has led certain critics and listeners to dismiss him as gimmicky.

McFerrin had a huge hit in 1988 with "Don't Worry, Be Happy," an uncharacteristically simple song which, to his immense credit, he's never tried to duplicate. Instead he has collaborated with a wide variety of jazz musicians, from Grover Washington, Jr. to Pharoah Sanders, and has extended his activities into the classical arena, both as singer and pianist and, on occasion, as conductor. Though he never became the pop star that "Happy"indicated he would, this seems to have been a conscious choice. McFerrin remains a talented musician, first and foremost.

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