A mixed bag, literally.
Mary Whipple | New England | 02/22/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Compiled from three separate concert venues and dating from 1957, 1958, and 1963, this 1987 remastered CD lacks the kind of unity we have come to expect from Sarah Vaughan's other recordings. The nine songs from a three-day Tivoli Gardens stint in Copenhagen (1963) include five songs not previously released, and feature a subtle and effective accompaniment of piano, bass, and drums. Two tracks from Mister Kelly's in Chicago (1957) and two from London House, Chicago (1958), complete the selections, with Vaughan's own trio accompanying her on the Mister Kelly's tracks. The tracks from the London House concert feature a brass section, however--two trumpets and a trombone--from Count Basie's band, along with a tenor sax, changing the overall mood on these tracks.
Most of the songs are standards which Vaughan has recorded many times, at least as effectively (and sometimes more so). Her voice in the fifties is higher, thinner, and lighter than it is in the sixties on these tracks, and she sticks to ballads, primarily, though she does jazz them up and get swinging near the end of most of them. Her imagination and her sense of timing and tempo are obvious in 1957 and 1958, but by the 1960s, we hear a richness we don't hear in the earlier years. Her sense of musicianship has developed more fully by 1963, and it is in these tracks that she sounds most like the musician she became in the latter part of her career.
"What Is This Thing Called Love" (2:11 minutes), however, matches anything Vaughan ever recorded later, with its quick beat and great scatting. Her full voice and style shine brilliantly, and she uses all four octaves of her remarkable range in a fantastic rendition of one of her popular songs. "Sassy's Blues" (5:40 minutes, one of the longest songs on the CD) is pure scat, written by Vaughan herself with Thad Jones, and though I found it a bit repetitious, it shows Vaughan playing with the melody, having fun, and doing something she does best. Her interpretation of the usually maudlin "I'll Be Seeing You" manages to avoid sentimentality and acquire a fresh interpretation.
Though this is not one of my favorite CDs by Sarah Vaughan, it is still fascinating for what it contributes to her total body of work, allowing the listener to hear her at different stages, with different accompaniments, and with different levels of interpretation. It also emphasizes how great her really great recordings are! (At prices like these for a Used copy, however, how can you possibly go wrong?) n Mary Whipple