September 4, 2011

Sarah the Tame

Jazz Icons: Sarah Vaughan Live in '58 & '64I am a big fan of the Jazz Icons series of DVDs, which has uncovered some of the classic jazz performances of all time. I was looking forward to viewing Sarah Vaughan: Live in ’58 and ‘64 with great anticipation. So, I am sorry to say that I found it a major disappointment.

The first set, filmed in Sweden, is the strangest of the three. Apparently filmed for television, Sarah ends each number by thanking the audience, yet there is no sound of applause. I’m not sure if they later added canned applause or what, but it’s a bit disconcerting as presented here. And Vaughan’s vocals, while lovely and always musical, are simply tame and uninspired. The other set from 1958, filmed in Holland, is clearly in front of a live audience, but the effect is the same: lovely but bland. In the third set from 1964, we see Vaughan in a bad wig and sweating profusely through a somewhat livelier vocal delivery.

While the material she’s chosen - “Misty,” “Lover Man,” “Tenderly,” “Sometimes I’m Happy,” “Maria” (from West Side Story), among others - is impeccable and the group behind her is terrific, the overall effect of the whole is something less than the parts.

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