Camille Bertault: Vocalese Virtuoso

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Vocalese is the art of singing famous jazz instrumental solos;  like scatting, it is much harder than singing, which is probably why not that many singers do it. Kurt Elling does it well, so did the late Mark Murphy. Ditto for Jon Hendricks and King Pleasure. Annie Ross did a great performance of Wardell Gray’s bebop classic “Twisted”.  The Manhattan Transfer did a great cd called Vocalese in 1986.  Sarah Vaughan did some nice vocalese on George Shearing’s “Lullaby of Birdland”;  Ella Fitzgerald scatted fabulously, perhaps the best of them all, but I can’t remembering her doing any vocalese.

When my friend Michel Viet sent me this video of Camille Bertault last September, I fell out of my chair. I asked for more info, even put “will somebody please sign this woman” out into the record company universe. I never heard anything back.

She has a facebook page, and it says she studied at CRR Paris, a performing arts organization, and attended Lycée Masséna (high school) but no more info is given. Later I read in a French article that she first studied piano and classical piano, inspired by her pianist father. Later she studied piano at a music conservatory.

She was simply more inspired by singing, and at the age of 20 dropped piano study and focussed on voice.  She enrolled at the Conservatoire at Rayonnement Regional in Paris in 2013 to study jazz singing.  She started to sing on the street, in the metro, on buses. In public spaces like these, she practiced the art of vocalese while listening to music on headphones. People looked at her with plenty of puzzlement, as just another young oddball. But, as she says on her Facebook page, she takes her music seriously and never wanted to be regarded as some sort of circus or vaudeville act.

I read that her first album already came out, and a second one, En Vie, was in the works.  I haven’t found anything so far, either at, France, or iTunes.

When she put out her amateur video version of Coltrane’s giant-killer 1959 masterpiece “Giant Steps”  on youtube, she caused a sensation.  She was astonished: in spite of her recording it casually in her room holding a cell phone, she got 400,000 youtube views in just two days.

There is reportedly an album in the works, according to a July post, but I’ve seen nothing on Amazon U.S. or Amazon France yet.

“Giant Steps”

Mr. P.C.:

Snarky Puppy’s song Lingus, where she sings remotely.  Watch the guys in the band as they react to her solo: