Best Singer or MC
Though largely unheralded and vastly under-recorded, jazz singer Faye Carol is known to fans as one of the world's best living vocalists. Her way of phrasing recalls the old blues divas who knew how to use melisma, but didn't rely on it — coarse and husky sometimes, but always knowing when to stretch out or fatten a note to give the lyric more interiority. Take her interpretation of the head on "Willow Weep for Me," which she sang during a Billie Holiday tribute at Yoshi's: She let the wil-low swell out seductively and brought the weep in just slightly behind the beat, so the line really swung. Carol has such an interesting way of interpreting music that she can transform any ballad into a blues, adding layers of emotional depth that would never translate on staff paper. On Howard Wiley's Angola Project, she sang "Trouble of the World" in a gritty, impassioned style that actually did justice to forebear Mahalia Jackson. On Marcus Shelby's new album Harriet Tubman, she so fully inhabited the title character that her first solo had the force of an aria, and a lament. She's capable of manhandling a crowd like no other Bay Area singer, and can make any local jazz club feel like Carnegie Hall.