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Desert Island Disks: Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan

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Album Review

One of America's premier voices in jazz is captured at her absolute prime on the three respective features within the hour-long Jazz Icons: Sarah Vaughan (2007). The contents — two from mid-1958 and one from late 1964 — are presented somewhat out of chronology, presumably in an attempt to create a more fluid viewing experience. Up first is a studio show titled "Live in Sweden" from July 9, 1958. Vaughan is supported by the trio of Richard Davis (bass), Ronnell Bright (piano), and Art Morgan (drums). When compared to the next pair of concert performances, the half-dozen selections found here are good but somewhat underwhelming. Perhaps it is the absence of an audience, which fails to ignite Vaughan and company. While the opener, "Sometimes I'm Happy," is lovely but uninspired, she makes up for it with "Lover Man." Vaughan's delivery is peppered with evidence of her interpretive mastery — from impeccable timing to flawless intonation. The good-natured "Mean to Me" swings as Vaughan's comfort level increases, allowing her to interact more freely. Among the highlights of this initial batch is the refined reading of Vaughan's signature song, "Tenderly." Particularly noticeable is how her phrasing has become subtly animated and playful. She concludes the brief set with an excellent take of "If This Isn't Love" — which she erroneously credits as a Gershwin composition. The slight misstep certainly doesn't prevent her from unleashing the best offering thus far. Using the same three-man lineup, Vaughan's appearance on "Weekend Show" is from a month earlier in Bussum, Holland, on June 7, 1958. After a tentative start, Vaughan unfurls a simple and effective version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" followed by a bouncy spin of "They All Laughed" filled with all the charm and finesse the artist became known for. It is worth reiterating that the renditions of "Lover Man" and especially the closer, "Sometimes I'm Happy," are less staid than their Swedish studio counterparts. Vaughan returned to Stockholm in January of 1964 backed by Buster Williams (bass), Kirk Stuart (piano), and George Hughes (drums). During the intervening years, the vocalist had gained further renown and expanded her repertoire. She draws again from the fertile Great American Songbook and comes out with definitive adaptations of show tunes such as "I Feel Pretty," "Baubles, Bangles and Beads," "I Got Rhythm," and the poignant "Maria." She demonstrates her abilities to tug at the heartstrings with the intimacy of "Misty," or to the contrary, the sassy and brash show-stopping "Bill Bailey, Won't You Come Home." As is the case with all Jazz Icons DVDs, the 24-page liner booklet is practically as entertaining as the contents of the disc itself with plenty of eye candy, notable reproductions of memorabilia, vintage photos, and essays from Vaughan's daughter, actress Paris Vaughan Courtnall, and jazz scholar Patricia Willard. Considering the rarity of the footage, the audio and visual quality are well above average and worth revisiting for any and all manner of Sarah Vaughan enthusiasts.

Customer Reviews

Sarah Vaughn

haunting, moving song--her talent is effortless and tremendous


This album is so stinkin' amazing it's not even funny! Shame on you if you don't own it. One of the best Jazz album of all-time!

Timeless Beauty

Feels good to hear a precious voice that can sing pain of love...Astonishing...Feels good to hear a voice telling a story that many can relate too...Beautiful


Born: March 27, 1924 in Newark, NJ

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Possessor of one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century, Sarah Vaughan ranked with Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday in the very top echelon of female jazz singers. She often gave the impression that with her wide range, perfectly controlled vibrato, and wide expressive abilities, she could do anything she wanted with her voice. Although not all of her many recordings are essential (give Vaughan a weak song and...
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