Thursday, January 03, 2008

1001 Albums Number 17

Sarah Vaughan – At Mister Kelly's

For the first time since I started these I've found myself unable to track down a record on the 1001 albums list. Soulseek and isohunt have both failed me, so if anyone knows where I can get a copy of Ramblin' Jack Elliot's Jack Takes The Floor, let me know. Instead we're skipping ahead to the next one, Sarah Vaughan's live album At Mister Kelly's.

Vaughan is a jazz singer but unlike her peer Billie Holiday the backing music is more in line with what I normally consider jazz – the piano and drums take a more constant rhythmic role, rather than as merely popping up for a treacly response to the vocals as they do for other jazz vocal performers like Holiday and Sinatra. There are an almost endless number comparisons and contrasts between Vaughan and Holiday that I could make, and I'll just list the most obvious. The first that comes to mind is that while both singers lived a life characterised by drug use and hard partying, Vaughan kept it together and died respected and successful at age 66 as opposed to Holiday's sad story. It makes sense therefore that while Lady in Satin has a sad mood engendered by Holiday's fragile, weary voice, Vaughan is perky and full of energy, and obviously enjoying herself greatly even on the more sombre songs.

Vaughan's voice doesn't have anywhere near the pathos of Holiday's, but it has a combination of strength and character that I find quite enchanting. I also prefer Vaughan's phrasing, perhaps it's just more 'rock' like in manner, but for whatever reason I find her singing to be a lot catchier and more immediately appealing to my ears.

Most notable among the charms of this particular album are the entertaining and charming in between (and during) song stage banter and the more substantial, interesting backing music (when compared to other music of this genre that I've heard). This one is definitely another winner.

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