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Sarah Vaughan: Live At the 1971 Monterey Jazz Festival

Sarah Vaughan

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Album Review

Sarah Vaughan was approximately three decades into her career when she stepped onto the stage at the Monterey Jazz Festival in September 1971 and still at the top of her game. Her voice swoops, sways and swings; it's a veritable roller coaster of pitch, tone and tempo, and Vaughan is in complete control of her instrument at all times. The voice is weightier than it was during her early days, but having recently taken a few years off from recording it was primed and ready for the remarkable push Vaughan was prepared to give it. Backed by the very capable trio of Bill Mays on piano (Vaughan introduces him as Willie Mays), Bob Magnusson on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums, Vaughan wastes no time showing why she always appears on the short list of jazz's greatest singers: On "I Remember You" she takes command of the rhythm and bends it to her will; it's impossible not to fall within her spell instantaneously. Vaughan must know she's on a roll because midway through the song she lets out a "Whoo!" that one might expect to hear from an audience member rather than the singer herself. "There Will Never Be Another You," taken at a breakneck pace, gives the band ample opportunity to blow, and Vaughan stays just far enough ahead to lead the way — at times it sounds as if she will leave them in the dust, but she never does; chaos is averted and something wholly exhausting but satisfying emerges. She follows that up with a gender-altered revisit to the Beatles' "And I Love Her" (retitled here "And I Love Him" for obvious reasons) that transforms it into a loosey-goosey blues that gives the singer enough breathing room to toy with the lyric in ways Paul McCartney could not have imagined. For the last two tracks, Vaughan is joined by a true all-star cast of horn players (Roy Eldridge, Clark Terry, Benny Carter, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Bill Harris and Zoot Sims), plus Louie Bellson on drums, Mundell Lowe on guitar and John Lewis on piano. Vaughan's role during the ensuing jam is primarily as scatter, but it's hard to imagine that any listener is going to complain that she takes a back seat after having experienced such a top-notch performance.

Biography

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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Sarah Vaughan: Live At the 1971 Monterey Jazz Festival, Sarah Vaughan
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