VAUGHAN, Sarah: Trouble Is A Man

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'Trouble Is A Man' Original Recordings 1946-1948

From the start of her career, Sarah Vaughan hada tremendous voice, and she never declined. Thetone of her voice was consistently beautiful, herrange was remarkable and she had completecontrol over her singing, no matter what thecircumstances. She was among the first vocaliststo fully grasp the intricacies of bebop and, evenwhen singing pop music, her phrasing wasalways modern and often adventurous.

Sarah Vaughan was born 27 March 1924 inNewark, New Jersey. She first sang in church andwas a well-trained pianist. In 1943 she won anamateur contest at the Apollo Theater and, onBilly Eckstine's recommendation, was hired byEarl Hines to both sing with his orchestra andplay second piano. Unfortunately thatpioneering bebop orchestra (which also featuredCharlie Parker on tenor and trumpeter DizzyGillespie) never recorded but it was an importanttraining ground for the young singer. Thefollowing year she, Parker and Gillespie all joinedEckstine's big band, which continued hereducation in bebop. Though she only recordedone song with that orchestra, on 31 December1944 Vaughan cut four selections as a leader,including a vocalized version of Gillespie's \ANight In Tunisia" which was called "Interlude".

After leaving Eckstine in 1945, Vaughan(who gained the lifelong nickname of "Sassy")spent a few months with the John Kirby Sextet.

In 1946 she launched her solo career and beganrecording for Musicraft. She would never lookback and during the next 44 years she wasconsidered one of jazz and popular music'sgreatest singers.

Between 14 June 1946 and 8 April 1948,Sarah Vaughan recorded 33 selections. Trouble IsA Man has twenty of the best. The programmebegins with Penthouse Serenade, a vintageballad that has Sassy accompanied by the TeddyWilson Octet, a group similar to the ones thathad backed Billie Holiday earlier in the decade.

At 22, Vaughan already sounds quite mature,using space well and showing restraint alongwith youthful enthusiasm. Pianist Wilson has anice spot while the arrangement for the band(with Scoville Brown's clarinet in the lead) is a bitreminiscent of the John Kirby Sextet. You'reBlase seems pretty straightforward until onecompares Vaughan's reading of the melody tohow the song usually goes. The Georgie Auld bigband provides the backing, sounding a littleboppish.

The next five selections have the singer joinedby bands headed by trumpeter GeorgeTreadwell. Treadwell and Vaughan were marriedon 16 September 1946. Although their marriagedid not last, the trumpeter was a major assetearly on in building up Vaughan's career and hetaught her about aspects of show business thathelped her become more famous. Everything IHave Is Yours (a big hit for Billy Eckstine) andBody And Soul feature backing by a small groupwith Treadwell briefly heard from and Vaughan'sfavorite pianist Jimmy Jones doubling on celesteon the former song.

Moving up to 1947, the sixteen-piece GeorgeTreadwell Orchestra accompanies Sassy on threemagnificent performances. I Cover TheWaterfront had been recorded by many othersingers during the previous fifteen years but thisversion is difficult to top. Vaughan's perfectcontrol, her subtle variations on the melody andher essaying of the unexpected key changes arequite a feat, sounding much easier than it reallyis. Sassy was the first to record Tenderly and thisrendition (which starts out as a waltz) was herfirst hit, remaining in her repertoire for manyyears. Don't Blame Me has Vaughan sticking tothe words but making many surprising choices ofnotes, almost completely reinventing the melodyand showing that she could do practicallyanything with her voice.

As 1947 progressed, Sarah Vaughan wasoften featured with large anonymous orchestrasarranged by Ted Dale. She stretched herselfbeyond jazz, most notably on Sometimes I FeelLike A Motherless Child. It has often been saidthat Sassy could have sung opera if the times hadbeen different and that had been her choice.

One can hear the potential on this emotionalperformance. But fortunately for jazz andpopular music, opera was not in Sassy's future.

I Can't Get Started and Alec Wilder'sTrouble Is A Man benefit from Vaughan'sinterpretations even if the backing is sometimes abit eccentric. Love Me Or Leave Me (originallyassociated with Ruth Etting) has a prominentrole for Sam Musiker's clarinet along with aparticularly colorful arrangement. Sassy displaysher powerful voice on a medium-slow The Man ILove, creating some remarkable intervals duringthe last part of the song. The double-timingdrum patterns of Cozy Cole set the atmospherefor I Get A Kick Out Of You while Vaughansounds exuberant during The One I LoveBelongs To Somebody Else, neglecting themeaning of the melancholy words in favour ofthe joy of singing with that voice of hers. It'sYou Or No One, a song that Doris Dayintroduced, is taken at a slower tempo thanusual with Sassy joined by Richard Maltby'sorchestra.

For her last session of 1947 before arecording strike kept musicians off recordsduring much of 1948, Vaughan is backed by ajazz quartet that includes pianist Jimmy Jonesand guitarist John Collins. She swings happilyduring What A Difference A Day Made a dozenyears before Dinah Washington had her gianthit, and puts plenty of feeling into Once In AWhile. These performances give listeners a goodidea what it sounded like to see Sarah Vaughanin clubs during this period.

While the recording strike resulted in fewrecords being made in 1948, there were someunusual attempts that involved only singers andno union musicians. For what would be her finalMusicraft date, Vaughan is joined by the EarlRodgers Choir for a cappella versions of therecently composed Nature Boy (a minor hit forSassy but a major one at the same time for NatKing Cole) and a unique version of I'm GladThere Is You. These are rather unusual andhaunting performances that are Vaughan's onlystudio recordings of 1948.

To end this programme on a swinging note,Vaughan is heard once again with Ted Dale'sorchestra on the happy I Feel So Smoochie.

In 1949, the singer signed with the Columbialabel, a major step forward in her rise tointernational stardom. Up until the time of herdeath on 3 April 1990, she was one of the topattractions in jazz. Even fifteen years after herdeath, few vocalists have come close to reachingthe heights of the great Sarah Vaughan.

Scott Yanow

Author of 8 jazz books including Jazz On Film, Swing,Bebop, Trumpet Kings and Jazz On Record 1917-76"
Disc: 1
I Feel So Smoochie
1 Penthouse Serenade
2 You're Blase
3 Everything I Have Is Yours
4 Body and Soul
5 I Cover The Waterfront
6 Tenderly
7 Don't Blame Me
8 Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child
9 I Can't Get Started
10 Trouble Is A Man
11 Love Me Or Leave Me
12 The Man I Love
13 I Get A Kick Out Of You
14 The One I Love Belongs To Somebody Else
15 It's You Or No One
16 What A Difference A Day Made
17 Once In A While
18 Nature Boy
19 I'm Glad There Is You
20 I Feel So Smoochie
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