Bobby McFerrin: I Hear Music


I Hear Music


Bobby McFerrin (vocals)


Spontaneous Inventions (Blue Note 46298)

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Bobby McFerrin (vocals).

Composed by Frank Loesser and Burton Lane


Recorded: Aquarius Theatre, Los Angeles, February 28, 1986


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

Bobby McFerrin has been part of the American music scene for over 25 years, so it’s easy to take him for granted and, in the process, overlook his considerable accomplishments. To start, there is the whole concept of solo singing that McFerrin developed for himself. With his amazing range and the ability to make rapid-fire changes from the top to the bottom of his voice, he created the illusion of a continuous walking bass line under his falsetto improvisations. Add the frequent slapping of his hand on his chest and the illusion of the rhythm section is complete. But McFerrin did more than just creating his own one-man band. He found a large audience that was not only interested in music for its own sake, but also in making music. He encourages his audience to sing along (and comically chastises them when they don’t) and he makes the whole experience of making music a great deal of fun. The concert from which Spontaneous Inventions derives was also recorded for video. The hall is packed (and this, I remind you, is before “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”). On “I Hear Music”, McFerrin sings a line or two of the lyric before taking out the words. On earlier live recordings, McFerrin was somewhat lax on staying within the unheard harmony, but on this track, he outlines the harmony for most of the solo. When he brings the audience in, McFerrin’s goofy choice of scat syllables makes the performance lose its focus. Yet, to hear the audience sing back McFerrin’s musical ideas with considerable accuracy makes up for the temporary suspension of time and harmony.

Reviewer: Thomas Cunniffe

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