Canadian jazz great tuning in to 'The Voice'

Bill King with his wife Kris. (QMI Agency files)

Bill King with his wife Kris. (QMI Agency files)

JIM SLOTEK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:53 PM ET

Ask many music professionals about American Idol, X-Factor, The Voice et al, and you'll get them sputtering. The common complaint is that these shows encourage the myth of "overnight success."

But one respected Canadian jazz figure - who's worked with Janis Joplin and Linda Ronstadt among others - is guaranteed to be watching The Voice elimination rounds this week.

"I love the show, starting with the fact that they don't see the artist, they hear their voice first," says composer/producer Bill King. "I've watched (the battle rounds) and tell my wife, 'She wins"¦ he wins,' and I've hit nearly every one of them. I see how the judges pick and how they're thinking, their choices are pretty much what I would choose."

But c'mon. King was Joplin's music director during her post-Big Brother Kozmic Blues period. Shouldn't that have spoiled him for this bunch of wannabes?

"When you're around those legends, it's a powerful voice and a powerful personality. There's something more to them than just a person singing. They walk into the room and they dominate the room.

"Frankly, I don't see anybody coming out of The Voice this season who is going to have a career. But when I saw Carrie Underwood years ago on Idol and she did Hello Young Lovers, it was just absolutely, stunningly beautiful. And I knew then that there was something in her.

"In the same way, when I heard Jennifer Hudson do this Whitney Houston tune, and she had this magnificent control, it just went right through the TV and got you. But the majority of them don't do that."

King says people would be surprised at the attention professionals pay to the reality-TV talent shows. "Don Thompson, the jazz guy, Order of Canada, one of the greatest musicians this country ever produced, he's watched every episode of American Idol.

"I've talked to him about why we relate to these shows, and it comes down to the fact that we love singers. He works with singers at (Toronto's) Humber College. And keep in mind, they may not be the greatest, but we love to see them progress.

"And the people on these shows, they're getting coached really well."

Though country singer Blake Shelton has a three-season winning streak coaching the eventual winner on The Voice, King says he most enjoys the coaching sessions with Christina Aguilera. "She has that fantastic voice, and in rehearsals she shows them exactly what they need to know."

That said, King says Shelton's streak is indicative of a country skew on the show, and he thinks Shelton's protégé Jonny Gray is probably the one to beat.

King, by the way, won't be watching X-Factor. He stopped watching American Idol mainly, he says, because of Simon Cowell. "I didn't care for the meanness, even though Simon was correct in his assessments. Plus, a lot of the time, he was trying to mold people into a narrow kind of pop act that would make him a lot of money.

"That's understandable, but I don't see music in that limited way."

 


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