About this Recording
8.120763 - VAUGHAN, Sarah: Trouble Is A Man (1946-1948)

‘Trouble Is A Man’ Original Recordings 1946-1948

From the start of her career, Sarah Vaughan had a tremendous voice, and she never declined. The tone of her voice was consistently beautiful, her range was remarkable and she had complete control over her singing, no matter what the circumstances. She was among the first vocalists to fully grasp the intricacies of bebop and, even when singing pop music, her phrasing was always modern and often adventurous. Sarah Vaughan was born 27 March 1924 in Newark, New Jersey. She first sang in church and was a well-trained pianist. In 1943 she won an amateur contest at the Apollo Theater and, on Billy Eckstine’s recommendation, was hired by Earl Hines to both sing with his orchestra and play second piano. Unfortunately that pioneering bebop orchestra (which also featured Charlie Parker on tenor and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie) never recorded but it was an important training ground for the young singer. The following year she, Parker and Gillespie all joined Eckstine’s big band, which continued her education in bebop. Though she only recorded one song with that orchestra, on 31 December 1944 Vaughan cut four selections as a leader, including a vocalized version of Gillespie’s “A Night 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 began recording for Musicraft. She would never look back and during the next 44 years she was considered one of jazz and popular music’s greatest singers.

Between 14 June 1946 and 8 April 1948, Sarah Vaughan recorded 33 selections. Trouble Is A Man has twenty of the best. The programme begins with Penthouse Serenade, a vintage ballad that has Sassy accompanied by the Teddy Wilson Octet, a group similar to the ones that had backed Billie Holiday earlier in the decade. At 22, Vaughan already sounds quite mature, using space well and showing restraint along with youthful enthusiasm. Pianist Wilson has a nice spot while the arrangement for the band (with Scoville Brown’s clarinet in the lead) is a bit reminiscent of the John Kirby Sextet. You’re Blasé seems pretty straightforward until one compares Vaughan’s reading of the melody to how the song usually goes. The Georgie Auld big band provides the backing, sounding a little boppish.

The next five selections have the singer joined by bands headed by trumpeter George Treadwell. Treadwell and Vaughan were married on 16 September 1946. Although their marriage did not last, the trumpeter was a major asset early on in building up Vaughan’s career and he taught her about aspects of show business that helped her become more famous. Everything I Have Is Yours (a big hit for Billy Eckstine) and Body And Soul feature backing by a small group with Treadwell briefly heard from and Vaughan’s favorite pianist Jimmy Jones doubling on celeste on the former song.

Moving up to 1947, the sixteen-piece George Treadwell Orchestra accompanies Sassy on three magnificent performances. I Cover The Waterfront had been recorded by many other singers during the previous fifteen years but this version is difficult to top. Vaughan’s perfect control, her subtle variations on the melody and her essaying of the unexpected key changes are quite a feat, sounding much easier than it really is. Sassy was the first to record Tenderly and this rendition (which starts out as a waltz) was her first hit, remaining in her repertoire for many years. Don’t Blame Me has Vaughan sticking to the words but making many surprising choices of notes, almost completely reinventing the melody and showing that she could do practically anything with her voice.

As 1947 progressed, Sarah Vaughan was often featured with large anonymous orchestras arranged by Ted Dale. She stretched herself beyond jazz, most notably on Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child. It has often been said that Sassy could have sung opera if the times had been different and that had been her choice. One can hear the potential on this emotional performance. But fortunately for jazz and popular music, opera was not in Sassy’s future.

I Can’t Get Started and Alec Wilder’s Trouble Is A Man benefit from Vaughan’s interpretations even if the backing is sometimes a bit eccentric. Love Me Or Leave Me (originally associated with Ruth Etting) has a prominent role for Sam Musiker’s clarinet along with a particularly colorful arrangement. Sassy displays her powerful voice on a medium-slow The Man I Love, creating some remarkable intervals during the last part of the song. The double-timing drum patterns of Cozy Cole set the atmosphere for I Get A Kick Out Of You while Vaughan sounds exuberant during The One I Love Belongs To Somebody Else, neglecting the meaning of the melancholy words in favour of the joy of singing with that voice of hers. It’s You Or No One, a song that Doris Day introduced, is taken at a slower tempo than usual with Sassy joined by Richard Maltby’s orchestra.

For her last session of 1947 before a recording strike kept musicians off records during much of 1948, Vaughan is backed by a jazz quartet that includes pianist Jimmy Jones and guitarist John Collins. She swings happily during What A Difference A Day Made a dozen years before Dinah Washington had her giant hit, and puts plenty of feeling into Once In A While. These performances give listeners a good idea what it sounded like to see Sarah Vaughan in clubs during this period.

While the recording strike resulted in few records being made in 1948, there were some unusual attempts that involved only singers and no union musicians. For what would be her final Musicraft date, Vaughan is joined by the Earl Rodgers Choir for a cappella versions of the recently composed Nature Boy (a minor hit for Sassy but a major one at the same time for Nat King Cole) and a unique version of I’m Glad There Is You. These are rather unusual and haunting performances that are Vaughan’s only studio recordings of 1948.

To end this programme on a swinging note, Vaughan is heard once again with Ted Dale’s orchestra on the happy I Feel So Smoochie. In 1949, the singer signed with the Columbia label, a major step forward in her rise to international stardom. Up until the time of her death on 3 April 1990, she was one of the top attractions in jazz. Even fifteen years after her death, few vocalists have come close to reaching the 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

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