Possessor of one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century, Sarah Vaughan ranked with Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday in the very top echelon of female jazz singers. She often gave the impression that with her wide range, perfectly controlled vibrato, and wide expressive abilities, she could do anything she wanted with her voice. Although not all of her many recordings are essential (give Vaughan a weak song and she might strangle it to death), Sarah Vaughan’s legacy as a performer and a recording artist will be very difficult to match in the future.
Vaughan sang in church as a child and had extensive piano lessons from 1931-39; she developed into a capable keyboardist. After she won an amateur contest at the Apollo Theater, she was hired for the Earl Hines big band as a singer and second vocalist. Unfortunately, the musicians’ recording strike kept her off record during this period (1943-44). When lifelong friend Billy Eckstine broke away to form his own orchestra, Vaughan joined him, making her recording debut. She loved being with Eckstine’s orchestra, where she became influenced by a couple of his sidemen, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, both of whom had also been with Hines during her stint. Vaughan was one of the first singers to fully incorporate bop phrasing in her singing, and to have the vocal chops to pull it off on the level of a Parker and Gillespie.
1 “Over the Rainbow” (Harold Arlen, Yip Harburg) – 3:30
2 “Soon” (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin) – 2:37
3 “Cherokee” (Ray Noble) – 2:32
4 “I’ll Never Smile Again” (Ruth Lowe) – 2:35
5 “Don’t Be on the Outside” (George Kelly, Mayme Watts, Sidney Wyche) – 3:01
6 “How High the Moon” (Nancy Hamilton, Morgan Lewis) – 2:36
7 “It Shouldn’t Happen to a Dream” (Duke Ellington, Don George, Johnny Hodges) – 3:20
8 “Sometimes I’m Happy” (Irving Caesar, Vincent Youmans) – 2:57
9 “Maybe” (G. Gershwin, I. Gershwin) – 2:34
10 “An Occasional Man” (Ralph Blane, Hugh Martin) – 2:33
11 “Why Can’t I?” (Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers) – 2:54
12 “Oh My” (Joe Greene) – 2:21
Video: Sarah Vaughan – Over The Rainbow 1956