Friday, March 27, 2015

The Divine One In What Would Be Her 91st Year

At our house we enjoy the music channels as much as the video programming. The "Singers and Swing" channel in particular is one of our favorites and one of their singers we hear every day is the late, great Sarah Vaughan. Today marks the 91st anniversary of her birth in Newark, New Jersey. The introductory paragraph of her Wikipedia entry quotes the music critic, Scott Yanow, as saying she had "one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century." With a three octave range, wonderful diction, and a sensuously rich voice she could wring every emotion out of a popular song or jazz number. When coupled with the greatest of songwriters from the first half of the 20th century I think she could be matched only by Ella Fitzgerald for her vocal magic and entertainment value. 

Vaughan passed away in 1990 and in the past twenty-five years we have the likes of Jane Monhoit, Diana Krall, Nancy LaMott, and others to carry on the jazz vocalist traditions. As I have said before we've come down a long way in what passes for popular music over the past generation. Of course, there are exceptions but for the most part real singing has become subordinate to other aspects of presentation, performance, and spectacle. And once more I ask the question, "Where is jazz, a genre birthed in the United States?" It is alive in many small markets across the country but it remains a small portfolio in the financial departments of our corporate music industry. The corporate bottom line drives the industry today and it drives some of our best musical talent into a parallel universe. These niches of excellence exist for those who want seek them out but it is far easier to succumb to the mediocrity forced upon the market by the accountants and their search for profit through the lowest common denominators in music.

Here are three examples of superb music sung by the Divine One at a time when professional musicians actually had a major roll in the industry management. Do enjoy. And do your best to support the American cultural phenomenon knows as jazz.  

Here is Vaughan and trumpeter, Clifford Brown, performing Lullaby of Birdland from their 1954 album, a recording entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

In 1958 she recorded Misty with Quincy Jones and his orchestra. Misty was her signature song for many years.

By the early '70's this Sondheim classic displaced Misty as the Divine One's song.

Happy birthday, Sassy!


Lawrence Jones said...

Thankfully recording equipment was available to record the performers and music of the era

Old Tybee Ranger said...

Thanks for commenting. Indeed, it was a time when real talent was essential to success. It's also amazing how many excellent singers were around then. Similarly, I often wish photography had been around a century earlier- say around 1740 - in order to document the American nation and its experience.