Live At Rosy’s (CD) By Sarah Vaughan

August 7, 2016

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Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald are considered the three finest female jazz singers of the 20th century. Vaughan tended to be the most mainstream of the trio and enjoyed a career of nearly 50 years.

Her greatest commercial success took place in the 1940’sand 1950’s when she placed dozens of crossover hits on the Pop Charts. During the 1960’s through the 1980’s, she was constantly on the road as a top attraction in night clubs and concert halls all across the country.

When she performed at Rosy’s Jazz Club in New Orleans on May 31, 1978; her almost operatic voice had lost none of its power and appeal. It could soar and purr at will as she interpreted a number of songs from the Great American Songbook. The music from that New Orleans concert is now available for the first time.

While Vaughan performed with many backing configurations during her career, she was always the most comfortable and vocally adept when backed by a basic trio. Here pianist Carl Schroeder, bassist Walter Booker, and drummer Jimmy Cobb provide all the backing she needs for her 90 minute performance.

The sound is clean, especially for a recording nearly 40 years old. There is a 36 page booklet with essays, photos, and interviews that give a complete picture of the concert and Fitzgerald. The participation of surviving band members Cobb and Schroeder lend an authenticity to the affair.

It is ballads that defined the musical approach of Vaughan. She would slow them down, improvise along the way, and allow her voice to do the rest. During the 1980’s “Send In The Clowns” was her concert closer and here we find it as a work in process. It would ultimately be extended into a spectacular and intricate performance but here it is presented in a formative stage but it still clocks in at six minutes.

The classic “My Funny Valentine” is another song that has a number of ebbs and flows as it travels to a dramatic finish. Throw in the molten “I’ll Remember April,” “Time After Time,” “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good),” and the creative “Sarah’s Blues” and you have a fine representation of Sarah Vaughan at her concert best.

Sarah Vaughan will be honored by the United States postal service on March 29th when a commemorative postage stamp will be issued in her honor. This concert also bears her unique stamp and is another tribute to her legacy.


Sophisticated Lady: The Duke Ellington Songbook by Sarah Vaughan

November 24, 2013

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Legendary jazz producer and label owner Norman Granz sold his Verve label to MGM during 1962. A little over a decade later he founded Pablo Records and signed such artists as Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Count Basie, and Sarah Vaughan. During its 15 year existence, Pablo would release 350 albums by many of the leading jazz artists of the day.

Sarah Vaughan released two albums of Duke Ellington material for the label in 1980. Now those two albums, Duke Ellington Songbook One and Duke Ellington Songbook Two have been resurrected into one release titled Sophisticated Lady: The Duke Ellington Songbook Collection. Also included as bonus tracks are six previously unreleased performances.

The music is presented in chronological order by recording date. This means that the six bonus tracks, from the August 15, 1979 session, are the first tracks on the two-disc collection. The six tracks, arranged and produced by Benny Carter, are not outtakes but completely different versions of what appears on the Ellington Songbook releases. All the tracks are backed by strings and horns, which form a full background for her vocals. Highlights are a poignant “Lush Life,” a soaring “Sentimental Lady,” and a controlled “Tonight I Shall Sleep (With A Smile On My Face).” Through it all the saxophone play of Zoot Sims sets the mood.

The material from the two albums runs the gamut from sparse accompaniment to a full band and orchestra. The three tracks from the January 23, 1980 session feature the backing of only pianist Mike Wofford and guitarist Joe Pass. It allows the focus to be squarely on Vaughan’s vocals. “Prelude To A Kiss,” “Everything But You,” and “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But The Blues” allow her to explore the textures of each song.

Vaughan gives mellow performances on such tunes as “Mood Indigo,” “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good),” and “Solitude.” She harps back to the big band era with her cover of “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).”

The sound from the original Pablo masters has been enhanced, plus there is a booklet that gives the history of each session.

Sophisticated Lady: The Duke Ellington Songbook Collection is a nice trip through the music of a by-gone era where the voice of jazz master Sarah Vaughan combines with the legacy of Duke Ellington.