Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sarah Vaughan: The booming career of a great bebop vocalist

SARAH VAUGHAN: The booming career of a great BEBOP VOCALIST.
At that time I was singing more off key than on

Hans Koert

Sarah Vaughan: De beginjaren van een groot bebop zangeres (Nederlands) Sarah Vaughan: The booming career of a great bebop vocalist (English) Sarah Vaughan: Unieke opnamen - Live in het Concertgebouw (1958) ( Nederlands) Sarah Vaughan: Unique live performance at the Concertgebouw (1958) (English)

Sarah Vaughan, the Devine One, or Sassy for friends, performed at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw at a night concert on the 7th of June, 1958. Thanks to impresario Lou Van Rees and the Dutch Jazz Archive, (now part of the Muziek Centrum Nederland) this concert has been released more then 50 years later in a series entitled Jazz at the Concertgebouw. It's its fourth record. Previous concerts released where with Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan and Jay Jay Johnson, all three pearls in European jazz history.

Today the intro of a review of the Sarah Vaughan album If This Isn't Love - Live at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

Sarah Vaughan (1924 - 1990) ( Source:
Sarah Vaughan was born in March 1924 in Newark NJ and she was raised in a musical family. Her father, a carpenter, played the guitar and as a kid she heard her mother sing at the Mount Zion Baptism choir. She learned to play the piano at seven and played the organ in church as a teenager. She sung and played the piano at Newarks Arts High School and at various gigs. She once told in an interview that she laid the foundation of her vocal style during this period: While I was playing piano in High School, I learned to take music apart and analyze the notes and put it back together again, she told Barbara Gardner in Down Beat (March 1961). By doing this , I learned to sing differently from all the other singers.

Label of a Mercury record: Alexander's Ragtime Band (April 1957)

In the early 1940s she took part of an amateur night at the prestigious Apollo Theatre in Harlem and won the first prize. This was the start of a booming career. Within a few months she sung and played the piano in the Earl Hines Orchestra and the Billy Eckstine Big Band. Her first recording, I'll Wait and Pray, September 1944, was with the Billy Eckstine Orchestra. Billy Eckstine Orchestra ( 1946) (Source:
She was facinated by the great bebop musicians, like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie; the latter was part of the Billy Eckstine band at her record debut. I thought Bird and Diz were the end ........... At that time I was singing more off key than on, she told Don Gold in Down Beat (May 1957). These originators of bebop inspired her - especially horns seem to have more influence to her then voices, she told Don: I think their playing influenced my singing. As soon as I hear an arrangement, I get ideas kind of like blowing a horn. I guess, I never sing a tune the same way twice.

Sarah Vaughan together with the two great sax player: Coleman Hawkins (left) and Illinois Jacquet (right). Hawkins replaced Charlie Parker, who couldn't come to Europe due to illness. The Hague October 1954 ( photo courtesy: Wouter Van Gool. Source: One Night Stand - Jaap Van Der Klomp)

Enjoy a fragment from the so-called Rhythm and Blues Revue, a compilation of soundies and TV-performances. This fragment with Miss Sassy must have been recorded somewehere in 1954, probably in Carnegie Hall ( not the Apollo Theater as suggested) with the Count Basie Band. Mind that the two other fragments are with the Basie band too, but without Sarah Vaughan and these recordings were prpbably made in 1950 with musicians like Buddy DeFranco, Clark Terry, Wardell Gray, Count Basie, Freddie Green, Jimmy Lewis and Gus Johnson. The host suggests that the three fragments were all recorded at the same time and at the same spot. That's wrong. Listen to a 1954 Sarah Vaughan with a great song of Perdido:

What a singer - what a star !!

Poster (in negative) of the Coloured Show in Het Gebouw Van K & W in The Hague and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam ( October 1954) ( photo courtesy: NJA. Source: One Night Stand - Jaap Van Der Klomp)

During the 1940s and 1950s most of her recordings became hits, but she had to wait until 1959 to get her first million seller: Broken Hearted Melody - a tune more interesting for fans of [popular music then for jazz fans. In 1953 she first toured Europe with the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet and a year later she returned for a lengthy tour of four months. Like Benny Goodman she was invited to be part of the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels (Belgium), where she performed for a week-gig starting the 29th of July, 1958 with Sidney Bechet and the International Youth Band (directed by Marshall Brown).

In Sarah Vaughan: Unique live performance - Live at the Concertgebouw (1958), I hope to introduce you to Sarah's 1958 concerts in Europa, and to review the recently released Concertgebouw concert from July 1958.

Hans Koert

Sarah Vaughan ( 1924-1990) is one of those legendary jazz vocalist from the second part of the Twentieth Century you can't have missed. She had a voice like a vocalist in the grand opera. During the 1950s and 1960s, when she developed into a very popular vocalist, she conquered the world and in 1954 she visited our coutry for the very first time. Keep Swinging loves to spot light her early career as an introduction for her European concerts in 1958 and the recently released 1958 Concertgebouw concert in Amsterdam.

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