Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b 27 March '34, Newark NJ; d 3 April '90, LA CA) Singer, also played piano; aka 'Sassy', 'The Divine One'. As with Ella Fitzgerald, there was argument about whether she is a jazz singer; as with Ella, the argument was academic: with her effortless swing, wide vocal range, rare but excellent scatting, apparently perfect pitch and a vocal colour that became warmer than Ella's over the years, she was one of the great vocalists of the century. Sang in church, studied piano as a child; won amateur night at the Apollo Theatre, joined Earl Hines band '44--5; when Billy Eckstine left to form his own band she was a founder member (see Eckstine's entry for tracks with Sarah); then she recorded under her own name, often duetting with Eckstine. CD compilations of tracks from late '40s were It's You Or No One, Tenderly and Time And Again, all on Musicraft. She recorded for Columbia '49--53; Sarah Vaughan In HiFi '55 (with Miles Davis) and Linger Awhile '56 (top 20 LP) were famous Columbia albums while she was having hit singles on Mercury. Columbia compilations on CD incl. two-disc The Divine Sarah Vaughan: The Columbia Years and Send In The Clowns on Legacy. She recorded for Roulette '60s: The Explosive Side Of Sarah Vaughan and The Lonely Hours were combined on CD as The Benny Carter Sessions; others were Sarah Sings Soulfully with Teddy Edwards, Sarah Slightly Classical etc. Later on Pablo '70s there were Duke Ellington Songbook albums (with Duke), How Long Has This Been Going On and others.

She usually toured with a piano trio, often with symphony orchestras '80s; she returned to Columbia for Gershwin Live! c'82 with the LA Philharmonic cond. by Michael Tilson Thomas and Brazilian Romance '87, with George Duke, Dori Caymmi and a big orchestra. She had 20 hit singles '54--66 incl. duet with Eckstine 'Passing Strangers' '57, top tens 'Make Yourself Comfortable' and 'Whatever Lola Wants' '54--5, 'Broken-Hearted Melody' '59, all on Mercury; the largest body of her recording incl. a cast of first-class jazzmen and was made for the EmArcy/Mercury/Verve labels, all now belonging to Polydor: The Complete Sarah Vaughan has been issued on Mercury in USA as Vol. 1: six-disc Great Jazz Years '54--6, with Clifford Brown, Cannonball Adderley, others; Vol. 2: five-disc Sings Great American Songs '56--7 with Eckstine and others; Vol. 3: six- disc Great Show On Stage '54--6; Vol. 4: six-disc The 1960s. Many albums are available separately on CD incl. Sassy Swings Again with Freddie Hubbard, Benny Golson etc and Irving Berlin Songbook with Eckstine, both on Mercury; EmArcy revived as a CD label incl. classics Sarah Vaughan '54, Rodgers And Hart Songbook '54--8, In The Land Of Hi-Fi '55 with Ernie Wilkins, No Count Sarah with Thad Jones, Sings George Gershwin Vol. 1 arr. by Hal Mooney with Jimmy Jones (her long-time acompanist) on piano and Vol. 2 Live, plus Swinging Easy etc. Other albums incl. Songs Of The Beatles on Atlantic (later on Rhino CD); live sets incl. Sassy Swings The Tivoli and At Mr Kelly's both on EmArcy, Perdido! Live At Birdland 1953 (broadcasts) on Natasha Imports; Live At Ronnie Scott's on Pye UK did not incl. the breathtaking 'Things Must Change', a lovely song written by Bernard Ighner, later incl. on a two-LP compilation sold at the club. The Planet Is Alive ... Let It Live! '85 on Gene Lees's Jazzletter label is now The Mystery Of Man on Kokopelli: poems by Pope John Paul II were adapted by Lees to music by Tito Fontana and Sante Palumbo; Ighner sang one song; Lees wrote 'Toward The Light' with Francy Boland and 'Let It Live' with Lalo Schifrin; the album was made live in Dusseldorf, prod. by Gigi Campi, arr. by Boland; orch. cond. by Schifrin incl. Benny Bailey, Art Farmer, Tony Coe, Sahib Shihab, 30 others plus strings. She also sang in a London studio recording of South Pacific '86 on CBS, then Sony/Columbia with Tiri Te Kanawa and Jos‚ Carreras in leading roles.