Sarah Vaughan, Live at Rosy's
Vaughan was 54 and in the midst of a merry comeback, recording a slew of albums for producer Norman Granz on the Pablo label and performing in a string of small clubs around the world (I saw her around this time at a very small venue, holding maybe 50 people, in Washington, DC), all with stunning virtuosity leavened with a playful verve.
She also had a great trio: Walter Booker on bass, Jimmy Cobb on drums, and her young arranger, Carl Schroeder, on piano. That's the group heard on the two CDs of Live at Rosy's. The club date was recorded for NPR's Jazz Alive, a wonderful program from that era (I'm surprised its archive hasn't served as the source for dozens of albums). A few years ago, Tim Owens, who produced the series, told Zev Feldman, Resonance's proprietor-sleuth, about the existence of tapes that didn't make the cut for the show's hour-long broadcasthence this album, and there's nothing second-string about it.
Sarah, the Divine One, is clearly having a grand time, swooping octaves, holding whole notes with a velvet vibrato, turning ballads into vamps, vamps into speed-fests, and sometimes playing songs straight and level too. She also shows great comic flair. Check out Disc 1, Track 9, when she calls for requests from the audience and hears back "A-Tisket A-Tasket" (from someone apparently confusing her with Ella Fitzgerald, who'd made a huge hit of the song 40 years earlier), prompting Vaughan to deadpan, "Well, I'll be damned . . . He thinks I'm Lena Horne," then to dive into the tune anyway, in a dead-on impression of Ella's little-girl voice of way back then.
Mainly she sings her long repertoire of standards: "I'll Remember April," "I Fall in Love Too Easily," "East of the Sun," "Time After Time," and, of course, "Send in the Clowns," which I've never heard any Broadway star sing more movingly.
This ranks right up there with the best Sarah Vaughan albums from this period (she died of lung cancer in 1990). And the sound quality, while a little thin on the drums, is very good too.