Monday, May 2, 2016

Sarah Vaughan: “Live At Rosy’s” (2016) CD Review

Jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan, known as both “Sassy” and “The Divine One” (testament to two very different aspects of her personality), possessed one of the most impressive and expressive voices. And it’s wonderful that we are still getting new recordings by her more than two decades after her death. Live At Rosy’s, the new two-disc set, features music recorded live at Rosy’s Jazz Club in New Orleans on May 31, 1978, when Sarah was fifty-four. Backing her on these tracks are Carl Schroeder on piano, Walter Booker on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums. This music was originally recorded for NPR’s Jazz Alive! series. This special set includes extensive liner notes, including pieces by Carl Schroeder and Rosy Wilson (the club’s founder), and an interview with Jimmy Cobb, as well as several photos.

The first disc opens with a delightfully fast rendition of “I’ll Remember April,” a song written by Gene de Paul, Patricia Johnston and Don Raye. Here Sarah Vaughan is having a grand time, playing a bit with the song, and adding a whole lot of fun scat, which really becomes the center and heart of this version. And things are off to a great start. She follows that with “I Fall In Love Too Easily,” written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn. This one she delivers in its normal slower tempo, really digging into the song vocally, at times dipping into those great lower notes. She also does a really good version of Styne and Cahn’s “Time After Time.”

There is some stage banter included, which is great. I am usually saddened when the banter is cut from live recordings. However, also good is that it is presented as a separate track, so if you just want to listen to the music, you can easily skip over this. Anyway, she introduces the band, jokingly introducing herself as Carmen McRae after saying to Carl Schroeder: “They know who I am. They do, they do. They’re here. They didn’t come to see you.” There is more playful interaction with the audience later when someone requests “A-Tisket A-Tasket.” And listen to what she does with her voice on this ridiculously fun rendition.

“East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon)” is one of my favorites, Sarah’s vocals accompanied by some cool work by Walter Booker on bass. This track too features some playful scat, and she ends the song by adding Count Basie’s name to the lyrics. Another highlight is “Somebody Loves Me.” As I’ve said before, you can never go wrong with Gershwin. This is a song that George Gershwin wrote with Ballard MacDonald and Buddy De Sylva, and this version features some nice work by Carl Schroeder on piano. And Sarah Vaughan really nails “Send In The Clowns,” turning in what is probably the best version I’ve heard. I am not a big Sondheim fan (attending a performance of Into The Woods was one of the most painful theatre experiences of my life), but this rendition is close to stunning, with Sarah Vaughan singing a cappella at one point toward the end. The first disc ends with an excellent jam, “Sarah’s Blues,” with the trio getting a chance to really demonstrate its talent. There is even a cool bass solo, which leads to a good, long drum solo, which interestingly at first focuses almost entirely on the snare, then gets a bit more wild.

The second disc opens strongly with “The Man I Love,” written by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin. Sarah really owns this song, and there are wonderful touches on piano by Carl Schroeder. There is a definite joy in this rendition. On this disc she also covers the fun Gershwin tune “Fascinating Rhythm.” There is a brief drum solo, followed by more completely delightful scat. And there’s a surprisingly humorous section with Sarah accompanied by some strange baroque-type piano playing. I had to listen to that section several times in a row, and it made me smile every time. This track is one of my personal favorites.

Another highlight is “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good),” Sarah’s delivery gorgeous and moving and honest on this Duke Ellington/Paul Francis Webber composition. Listen especially to the way she ends this one. Wonderful! “If You Went Away (Preciso Aprender A Ser So)” likewise features an incredible vocal performance.

Sarah gets really playful on “I Could Write A Book,” particularly during the section where she repeats how it’s good to have a lover. “It’s good to have to a lover/Oh yes, it’s good/Goodie-good, goodie-good, goodie-good, goodie-good, goodie-good/To have a lover somewhere/Oh yeah/Good to have a lover in New Orleans/Good to have a lover in New York City/It’s good to have a lover in Chicago/Good to have a lover just all over the place.” And she laughs during that last line.

This CD closes with a beautiful rendition of Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine.” I absolutely love the way she delivers lines like, “Is your mouth, is your mouth a little weak/When you open it, when you open it, when you open it to speak.” This is such a beautiful and moving rendition.

CD Track List

Disc One
  1. I’ll Remember April
  2. I Fall In Love Too Easily
  3. Band Intro
  4. East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon)
  5. A Lot Of Livin’ To Do
  6. Time After Time
  7. Somebody Loves Me
  8. Poor Butterfly
  9. A-Tisket A-Tasket
  10. Send In The Clowns
  11. Sarah’s Blues 
Disc Two
  1. The Man I Love
  2. I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)
  3. Watch What Happens
  4. If You Went Away (Preciso Aprender A Ser So)
  5. I Could Write A Book
  6. I Remember You
  7. Fascinating Rhythm
  8. Everything Must Change
  9. Like Someone In Love
  10. My Funny Valentine
  11. Ending Theme 
Live At Rosy’s was released on March 25, 2016 on Resonance Records.

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