Thursday, January 21, 2016

Jazz Flash News: Sarah Vaughan Stamp

The United States Postal Service has recently announced that a stamp honoring the artistic legacy of vocalist Sarah Vaughan will be put into circulation in 2016. A part of the ongoing Music Icons series, the stamp features an oil painting by Bart Forbes based on a photograph of Vaughan in concert taken by Hugh Bell in 1955. According to the USPS news release, Vaughan stands out as "one of America's greatest singers, successful in both jazz and pop, with a talent for improvisation and skillful phrasing and a voice that ranged over several octaves." The back cover of the 16-stamp sheet will feature a list of Vaughan's most successful recordings, including "Misty," "Body and Soul," and "Autumn in New York." The stamp will be issued at the end of March, and a ceremony will be held at Newark's Sarah Vaughan Concert Hall on the 29th of that month. This is certainly great news for all stamp-collecting jazz lovers like me! More information about this and other forthcoming stamps issued by the USPS is available here.

The description made by the USPS news release of Vaughan's vocal abilities is accurate—she was popular both as a jazz and a pop singer, although most of her pop records are decidedly steeped in jazz. Her vocal range and her sense of rhythm and timing, as well as her incredible breath control, earned her a rightful place among the greatest jazz singers in history, alongside legends like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. Her approach to the vocal art was always adventurous and surprising, and she was just as good in a warm, intimate small-group setting as in a recording session backed by a large string orchestra. As a result, she left us a vast discography full of gems in a variety of styles, from jazz to pop to Brazilian music to R&B-inflected numbers. A good selection of her pop output for Mercury can be found in Sarah Vaughan Sings Broadway, a two-CD set containing songs from Broadway shows that she recorded between 1954 and 1956. Here she is mostly accompanied by a studio orchestra conducted by Hal Mooney, and the lush arrangements are absolutely perfect for her divine voice. For anyone preferring to sample her jazzier side (which has always been my first choice) there are a wealth of albums, from the sides she cut with Clifford Brown in the '50s to her collaborations with Count Basie in the '60s to her recordings with Oscar Peterson in the '70s. Yet one of the best examples of Sassy in her jazzy prime is her 1957 live album At Mister Kelly's, cut at the famed Chicago jazz club in a trio setting featuring pianist Jimmy Jones, bassist Richard Davis, and drummer Roy Haynes. There's an undeniable connection between Vaughan and the audience, both in the intimate ballads ("Willow Weep for Me," "Stairway to the Stars") and on uptempo numbers ("Thou Swell," "Honeysuckle Rose," "How High the Moon") where she cuts loose, aided by a trio that supports her very effectively without ever getting in her way. These two CDs allow us glimpses into two fascinating sides of a multifaceted performer whose recorded legacy remains a true treasure of 20th-century music.


Bernice Finlayson said...

You forgot to mention her 'Send in the Clowns'

Anton Garcia-Fernandez said...


Thanks for your comment. If you mean the album 'Send in the Clowns,' which she cut for Fantasy, you are absolutely right—that's one her most memorable records! A great song choice, fantastic performances by Sassy, and some classy arrangements. It's definitely very recommendable!