Jackie & Roy this week, from a concert recorded by NPR for their Jazz Alive series, at the Art Park Festival in Boston in September 1979. Long considered Jazz’ First Couple, Jackie Cain and Roy Kral got their start as part of the legendary Charlie Ventura and His Bop For The People group in the late 1940s. After leaving Ventura’s group, Jackie & Roy got married and continued working as a Jazz vocal duo, gaining a wide popularity in the Jazz world from the 1950s on. They were actively performing up until Roy’s death in 2002. Jackie withdrew from the public eye in 2010 after suffering a stroke and died in 2014.
Noted Jazz critic Nat Hentoff said of the two: “Their work had a delicacy, a subtlety and a sense of joy to it. They were having fun and it was infectious”.
Jazz vocal duos aren’t all that common – we mostly consider Jazz vocals the sole domain of the Ella Fitzgeralds, Billie Holidays, Mel Tormès and Johnny Hartmans of the world – yet Jackie & Roy carved out a niche for themselves, and their repertoire, which went from bop to standards, was such a part of the complex fabric of Jazz that it’s hard to consider the world of Jazz without including them in the picture.
If you aren’t familiar with this legendary duo – and time has certainly faded much of it from view, for no good reason other than lack of access to their numerous recordings – do yourself a favor and check their catalog out where you can. They were an important part of the legacy of Jazz – and maybe not a huge slice of it, but an integral part of it. And you owe it to yourself to dive into the stuff infused with joy and subtlety. Comes in handy on cold nights.