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Divine Sarah Easily # 1

by Bob Powers

G21 Music Writer

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The best of them all? For me that's an easy choice. Only one jazz singer could possibly be selected. Sarah Vaughan possessed a voice that may never be matched in our lifetimes, perhaps not ever.

The winner is, of course, Sarah Vaughan. She died a decade ago, and her talents have inevitably been placed on the side of the road, while record companies try for the Next Big Thing.

Photo of Sarah VaughnHey, guys, NBT may never arrive.

Meanwhile, theres a treasure trove of Vaughan material in the vaults, with occasional CDs released that contain some of her best work.

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"Sarah Vaughan: Linger Awhile, Live at Newport and More" (Pablo Records) contains a cornucopia of sides that run the gamut of her long career. The album opens with five tracks from the Newport Jazz Festival of 1957. And what a festival it was, with such greats present as Roy Eldridge, Coleman Hawkins, Horace Silver, Carmen McRae, the Cannonball Adderley Quintet, Stan Kenton, Cecil Taylor, Jimmy Smith, and the Dave Brubeck Quartet. The Count Basie Band, then one of the biggest draws in the music business, closed out one show.

In his excellent liner notes, Richard S. Ginell observes that Vaughan was in excellent form, her upper register fully intact. The choice of tunes is impeccable, including "If This Isnt Love," "All of Me," "Black Coffee," and "Sometimes I'm Happy."

She sounds very young but confident on a beautiful rendition of "Poor Butterfly." The Newport part of the CD winds up with Vaughan's absolutely gorgeous "Tenderly," which always drew a huge reaction from her audiences.

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One of my favorite songs of all time was first made popular by Billy Taylor in an instrumental version of "That's All." This song can't be damaged by the wrong tempo or a simply poor warbler. It's foolproof, although some of the better versions must be lined up in some semblance of order. Having heard the tune sung by Sarah Vaughan, I'd easily place her arrangement at the head of the line.

Recorded in 1982, Vaughan sounds smoky and intimate. Backing her are some distinguished talents in the jazz world, including Joe Pass, Roland Hanna, Andy Simpkins, and Harold Jones. Wow, what a song, what a singer!

Coincidentally, this album also contains another of my personal favorites from the 1950s, the darling "Teach Me Tonight." This ballad has a good beat and you could dance to it, as Dick Clark's teenagers said often on TV's "American Bandstand."

Vaughan's version was recorded in 1978, with sensational support from Joe Pass, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, and Louie Bellson.

This is a powerful, tuneful, magnificent collection that will delight Vaughan's many fans, and possibly convert new ones to the delights available from The Sassy Miss Sarah Vaughan.

Caribbean Jazz

"New Horizons" (Concord Picante Records) sees the rebirth of the Caribbean Jazz Project.

There's only one holdover from the original group. Marimba and vibes groover Dave Samuels, easily the best musician on this mixed album, which doesn't quite reach the status of a must buy.

Joining Samuels (who gained fame with Spyro Gyra) are guitarist Steve Kahn, and the excellent flute player Dave Valentin. Various other players do background work.

While there's nothing terribly wrong with this session, there's also not much reason to seek it out from CDNow.

It's professionally performed, with without much fire or vinegar. The ensemble work is adequate, and the soloists perform well when given the opportunity. The Latin numbers dont work all that well. The best track on the CD is an enthusiastic version of the old jazz favorite, "A Night in Tunisia."

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Bob Powers always is interested in hearing from record distributors who deal in jazz, rock, folk, and anything that's good. For instructions on getting your album reviewed, contact him at rpowers@ee.net.

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