Sarah Vaughan, “Live at Rosy’s” (Resonance, two-discs out next week).
This is as great as any Sarah Vaughan record I’ve ever heard. It’s absolutely sensational, and then some. What you’ve got here is 90-minutes of hithero unreleased music originally recorded in 1978 for NPR’s “Jazz Alive” in Rosy’s Club in New Orleans. Everything about this disc is somewhere between special and spectacular – the usual wonderful Resonance liner notes by James Gavin, Will Friedwald, her drummer Jimmy Cobb and pianist Carl Schroeder, Rosy Wilson, the heiress in whose club Vaughan performed and singer Helen Merrill. What’s a bit mind-blowing when heard with her musical trio is that “the divine one” takes musical chances galore all through both discs. There is no guarantee those high notes will be perfectly clean or those low notes either. But she simply assumes that her singing has the virtuosity of the greatest jazz instrumentalists and improvises with the freedom the few others ever attempted. Call it arrogance if you will because the glory of Vaughan at this veteran stage of her career is that she knew she was the equal of anything that occurred to her to do. So what if she’d been smoking for decades? On top of all that is the charm of the woman in live performance, as when someone, incredibly, confuses her with Ella Fitzgerald and asks her to sing “A-Tisket A-Tasket.” With immense good humor, she says “well I’ll be damned” and proceeds to do just that – sing it jokingly. Says Merrill “when Sarah sang she might as well have been a trumpet player playing. Her musical ability for jazz, phrasing ... it was perfect. She had pipes that wouldn’t quit. I mean she had vocal cords that were amazing. She could do whatever she wanted with them.” And here, for NPR, she does just that. If you don’t know the astonishment of Sarah Vaughan, there are no better places on record to start. If you know how great she was, this is a set you don’t want to be without. Four stars.
– Jeff Simon
Vaughan Williams and Elgar. Works performed by violinist Pinchas Zukerman and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zukerman (Decca).
A sterling disc of great late-Romantic and modern English music by violinist and conductor Pinchas Zukerman. He plays the solo violin Vaughan Williams part of “The Lark Ascending” and conducts what is probably Vaughan Williams’ masterwork “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.” He also plays the solo violin and conducts Elgar’s “Salut d’Amour” and conducts Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro for String Quartet and String Orchestra as well as Elgar’s Serenade for Strings and two string Chansons. A perfect demonstration of a stylistic transition in the history of English music. Three and a half stars.
– Jeff Simon