The majority of the CDs I review are either new releases or recordings that reflect the current trends in popular music. These trends had their genesis in the amalgamation of African American music and country music which took place in the 1950s. However, that doesn't mean there was no popular music prior to those days. Every so often the opportunity arises to review music from this earlier period and it's hard not to be struck by the contrast between the two eras. The most glaring of these is how the artists of this earlier era are, for the main part, far more musically sophisticated.
This was driven home to me again when listening to a recent release from Legacy Recordings featuring the works of the late great jazz/blues vocalist Sarah Vaughan. While the majority of her recordings were with other labels, Vaughan released four LPs on the old Columbia label which have now been packaged as the four-CD set The Complete Columbia Albums Collection. What's wonderful about this collection is that it not only shows off the depth of her talent and versatility as a vocalist it gives listeners the opportunity to hear her at both the beginning and near the end of her career.
The first two discs in the collection, After Hours With Sarah Vaughan and Sarah Vaughan in Hi-Fi, were both originally released in 1955. We then jump forward in time nearly 30 years for her 1982 release Michael Tilson Thomas/Sarah Vaughan: Gershwin Live recorded at the Dorothy Chandler pavilion in Los Angeles, with Tilson Thomas conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The fourth disc in the set, and the last she released under her own name, Brazilian Romance, was released in 1987 and produced by Sergio Mendes.
Each disc gives us the chance to hear her singing a different type of music. Big band and swing influenced popular tunes, sophisticated jazz, the classical blues of the Gershwin brothers, and finally Latin music. Yet no matter what she's singing, you can't help but notice her amazing control and range. She's able to float effortlessly from the lowest end of the scale to the highest without effort. Her singing is as much second nature as breathing is to most of us.