SARAH VAUGHAN SINGS with JOHN KIRBY and his Orchestra
SARAH VAUGHAN, vocals (#1,3,5 and7); accompanied by John Kirby and his orchestra: Clarence Brereton (tp) Buster Bailey (cl) Russell Procope (as) Billy Kyle (p) John Kirby (b) Bill Beason (drs)
New York; January 9, 1946
JOHN KIRBY and his orchestra (#2, 4, 6 and 8): George Taitt (tp) Buster Bailey (cl) Hilton Jefferson (as) Hank Jones (p) John Kirby (b) Bill Beason(drs)
New York; September 3, 1946
1 It Might as Well Be Spring (2'59") (Hammerstein – Rodgers)
2 Serenade (2'47") (Schubert)
3 I Can Make You Love Me (2'45") (Russell – DeRose)
4 The Peanut Vendor (2'36")(Sunshine – Simons)
5 You Go to My Head (3'01") (Gillespie – Coots)
6 Ripples (2'29") (Jones- Kirby)
7 I'm Scared (2'32") (Leveen – Singer)
8 Sextet from Lucia (2'38") (Donizetti)
(vocals by Sarah Vaugan)
A simple word like "success" can be a very deceptive one, with a wide range of meanings. Thus, if you start with the statement that SARAH VAUGHAN has achieved great and unusual success as a singer in what is really an amazingly short time, someone is sure to top you with the story of some pop vocalist who made the grade by way of a million-copy record approximately six weeks after the first day she learned how to sign her name to a contract. Which is fine for her, of course, but hardly the same sort of success at all. For the six-week flash is about even money to be forgotten within the year; Sarah is somewhat better than an even bet to be remembered lastingly as one of the very few worthy of being rated a truly important and influential jazz singer.
The vocals included on this LP - four of the numbers are turned over virtually completely to the Vaughan voice - belong to the very early days of her career. These and a few other records made at roughly this time were the first concrete evidence of her considerable talents. They were, quickly, enough to convince the jazz world - that here was natural, a girl who sang with a true musician's feeling.
Her professional life had begun in 1942, when she was just eighteen: she had come over from her Newark, New Jersey, home to try her luck at one of the Apollo Theater's weekly amateur nights. As it had been for others, that Harlem spot was Sarah's jumping-off place. She won the contest; Billy Eckstine heard her and was sufficiently impressed to tout her to Earl Hines, with whose band he was then singing. Earl gave Sarah her first job; a year later she moved on with Eckstine into that short-lived, near-legendary band loaded with bop talent Billy put together. After that, it was a matter of a series of record dates and club dates and a steadily growing general appreciation of her worth until, eventually, there she was, and is: established as a rock-solid success, the girl that the young singers listen to and try to pick up their vocal tricks from - given the imitators stamp of approval as perhaps no other current singer except Ella Fitzgerald (another Apollo Theater graduate, by the way) has been.
Sarah Vaughan has always been a singer with a very definite style, what you could call a note-bender. And like all stylists, she is forced to live dangerously: such artists must forever run the risk of having the stylization grow into something of a Frankenstein's monster, perhaps through over-awareness that that's how the public identifies them, or through falling in love, with their own sound, or because of short-sighted advice. It has happened to many performers: a legitimately unique piece of musical self-expression gradually turning into a gimmick and then the gimmick taking the play completely away from the artistry. Whether or not this is happening, or will happen, to Sarah Vaughan can fortunately be considered entirely a moot point as far as this album is concerned. For here we're dealing with a period when she was first establishing herself, when the style was initially and remarkably taking shape. Someone connected with Crown, the now-defunct label for which these tunes were originally made, jotted the notation "many vocal tricks" on an acetate of It Might As Well Be Spring, and apparently meant it unfavorably - which just goes to show you ... But, on the contrary, the fact is that there is only a tasteful and judicious, though impressive, use of Sarah's very special trickery here. The emphasis is on the clear and lovely richness of her tone, on her incredibly and impeccably accurate ear and the many wonderful, subtle delightful little-girl freshness in her voice.
She works here with two fine standards, Spring and You Go To My Head, and with two by-now-forgotten pop efforts. The latter two can hardly be said to have distinguished lyrics, but fortunately enough this is a singer to be listened to as a sound. As it is, I'm Scared swings, and I Can Make You Love Me turns out to have a beautiful melody; so just skip the words as language and concentrate on the remarkable vocal instrument that Sarah has possessed right from the start.
JOHN KIRBY's association with Sarah on these numbers was no hit-or-miss affair. They were working together at New York's Copacabana Lounge at about this time, and it's clear that the band had learned how to give her effective and sympathetic backing, with particular credit to Billy Kyle's piano.
Kirby, creator of one of the most fascinating and distinctive of small-band styles, was then nearing the closing stages of his long career. A few months after the Vaughan date, Kirby's group recorded four instrumentals for the same label. They are all in the standard, swinging Kirby groove (two 'swung' classics, one ever green, one original),but with the interesting addition of a jazz idiom that might be called "early modern." Mostly notably in the solo work of pianist Hank Jones, who had replaced Kyle, there is a swift inventiveness that seems to make this one of those unfortunately rare examples of how an older jazz style (in this case, small-band Swing) can slide effortlessly towards a newer one.
Riverside “Contemporary Jazz Series” covers a wide range of traditional, Dixieland and modern jazz performances.
Other LPs in this series include;
Randy Weston: “Cole Porter in a Modern Mood” (RLP-2508)
Randy Weston Trio (RLP-2515)
Bob Helm’s Riverside Roustabouts (RLP-2510)
Wild Bill Davison (RLP-2514)
Yank Lawson’s Dixieland Jazz, featuring Pee Wee Russell, Eddie Condon, James P. Johnson (RLP-2509)
LP produced by Bill Grauer
Notes by Orrin Keepnews
Cover by Gene Gogerty
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
418 West 49th Street New York 19, New York