Sarah Vaughan – American singer and pianist
Sarah Vaughan, long considered one of America’s greatest
vocalists, was known for her incredible range, the power
and throaty richness of her voice, and the exceptional
control she had over her instrument. Her performances
and recordings influenced countless singers around the
world, even during her lifetime. In the pantheon of great
jazz singers, Vaughan is in the uppermost firmament
along with Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, according
to many music lovers and critics.
“Her voice had wings: luscious and tensile, disciplined
and nuanced, it was as thick as cognac, yet soared off
the beaten path like an instrumental solo … that her
voice was a four-octave muscle of infinite flexibility
made her disarming shtick all the more ironic,” wrote
music critic Gary Giddins.
Vaughan was born in Newark, New Jersey on March 27, 1924.
Her father was a carpenter and her mother worked
as a laundress. Music permeated their daily lives as both
of her parents were skilled amateur musicians. From an
early age, Vaughan learned how to sing and play piano
and organ. Initially, her prodigious talents were directed
towards sacred worship at Newark’s Mount Zion Baptist
Church, which is still flourishing at 208 Broadway. She is
probably the church’s most famous member, according
to the church website.
But Vaughan was itchy to get out of the church pews and into
the limelight. She got her first taste of stardom when she took
part in an amateur night contest at the famous Apollo
Theater. She won the competition with her version of the song
“Body and Soul” in 1942, instantly marking her for greater
things. Earl Hines, a big band leader, hired her to be a pianist
and singer after her performance. In 1944, she joined the
band of vocalist and bandleader Billy Eckstine.
From there, she began a steady climb in her career as
a soloist, notching performances with some of the greatest
jazz artists in the 20th century. These performers included
Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Benny Carter,
Frank Foster and Quincy Jones. It was her connection
with Parker and Gillespie that gave Vaughan her entrée
into bebop. She adopted the inventive sounds of bebop
and incorporated it into her singing, especially in the
scatting for which she best known.
Vaughan toured widely across the world, showcasing her
irrepressible vocal stylings. She performed in both intimate
cabaret settings and large scale concerts with prestigious
orchestral ensembles such as the Boston Pops, Cleveland
Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic, just to name a
few. Additionally, Vaughan performed at Newport Jazz
Festival several times and worked with festival producer,
George Wein on concerts all over the world.
Vaughan also expanded her audience greatly when she
started singing pop songs. As she grew older, Vaughan’s
voice became deeper and darker, which prompted music
lovers to say her voice was reaching its peak like fine wine.
Vaughan gave her last concert in 1989 at the Blue Note,
a legendary New York City jazz club. The following year,
Vaughan died at 66 years old on April 3rd of lung cancer.
She died at her home in Hidden Hills, just outside of Los
Angeles, California and a world away from her humble
beginnings in Newark.
Her 1990 obituary from the Los Angeles Times stated
that she passed away with her mother Ada and
adopted daughter Paris Deborah at her bedside.
In her obituary, music critic Martin Bernheimer said:
“Sarah Vaughan had a voice of extraordinary sweetness,
flexibility and purity, and she used it with uncanny
insinuation throughout a wide range. She could have
taught many an opera diva lessons in breath control,
in legato phrasing and in expressive communication.
She was a great singer. Period.”
For her funeral, Vaughan’s family held the service at the
same place where people got to hear her talents first:
Mount Zion Baptist Church in Newark.
″A Newark girl comes home, having gone full circle,″ said
the Rev. Granville E. Seward, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist
Church at the time, ″and what a circle that has been.″
“I just sing,” Vaughan once said of herself.
“I sing whatever I can.”
• Send in the Clowns, with Count Basie Orchestra
• Irving Berlin Songbook, with Billy Eckstine
• At the Blue Note
• In a Romantic Mood
• I Cover the Waterfront
• Lover Man, with George Treadwell Orchestra, Richard
Maltby String Orchestra, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker
• The Divine Sarah Vaughan: the Columbia Years
• Sarah Vaughan in Hi-Fi, with Miles Davis
• Sarah Vaughan, with Clifford Brown
• Sassy Swings the Tivoli
Best of Sarah Vaughan
- Libertango (Piano Solo) – Astor Piazzola
- Milonga del Angel by Astor Piazzolla (arr. piano solo)
- Oblivion (A. Piazzolla) Two pianos – pianists Argerich and Hubert
- Out of Africa – music by John Barry (piano solo)
- Oblivion (Astor Piazzolla) by Nadja Kossinskaja,guitar (with sheet music)
- Erik Satie (composer and pianist) (1866-1925)