If, like me, you can never have too much Sarah Vaughan, you’re in for a treat. Due for a March 25 release from Resonance Records is a two-CD set of the jazz diva’s previously unreleased 1978 live session recorded at Rosy’s Jazz Club in New Orleans for the National Public Radio program Jazz Alive! She is accompanied on the gig by Carl Schroeder on piano, Walter Booker on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums.
Live at Rosy’s has Vaughan at the top of her game. A consummate musician, she plays her voice like the magnificent instrument it is. Her song readings are excitingly inventive. She takes a classic up-tempo piece like “Fascinating Rhythm” and playfully finds a variety of multiple fascinating rhythms. It is an interpretive tour de force, while a classic ballad like “My Funny Valentine” is vocally rich like fine cognac.
But you don’t need me to tell you that Sarah Vaughan can sing, this is one of the truly greats. And on two CDs with 20 songs, each and every track is a winner. Beginning with “I’ll Remember April,” and running through tunes like “East of the Sun (and West of the Moon),” “Somebody Loves Me,” “Poor Butterfly,” and “Send in the Clowns”—and that’s only from disc one—she takes these standards and not only makes them her own, but stamps them indelibly with her name. Meanwhile highlights of the second disc include “The Man I Love,” ”I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good,” and a stellar version of “If You Went Away.”
Jazz singing doesn’t come any better than Sarah Vaughan. What she does with a song is magic, and pro that she is, she makes it sound effortless. In an essay by James Gavin included in the 36-page booklet that serves as the liner notes for the set, he quotes the singer: “’I don’t know what I’m doin’!’ she said ‘I just get onstage and sing. I don’t think about how I’m going to do it—it’s too complicated.’” Modesty aside, this is a singer who knows how to make the most out of her natural talent: the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
Not only does she sing, but the set includes some of her banter with the audience. There is some of her standard patter with the introduction of her trio. But perhaps the most interesting bit comes when someone shouts out a request for the Ella Fitzgerald classic “A-tisket, A-tasket,” and after joking that they have mistaken her for another singer, Vaughan treats it as a challenge and has some fun with it. Sassy is a pro. She knew how to work an audience, a skill singers today might want to emulate.
Soon after the release of the album the U. S. Postal Service will be issuing a commemorative Forever stamp honoring the singer. A ceremony will take place at the Sarah Vaughan Concert Hall at Newark Symphony Hall, 1020 Broad Street, Newark, N.J., at 11:00 a.m., March 29, 2016.