Jazz Vocals

From the Concord Vault: Sarah Vaughan

21 MAY 07 ANNE FARNSWORTH

Transcribing is a time-honored tool in a musician's education. In the Middle Ages, monks hand-copied scores, primarily to disseminate a great composer's work. But in the process of writing each note, every slur, the transcriber becomes intimately familiar with the master's methods and mindset. Jazz students do the same today with the recordings of their favorite artists. The only difference is they copy with their ears, not their eyes.

My favorite recording to assign vocal students for transcription is Sarah Vaughan's "Autumn Leaves" from her self-produced 1982 release Crazy And Mixed Up. At first hearing, there is usually a great wailing and gnashing of teeth, but the student is eventually calmed - you can do this, take it slow, think what you'll learn.

Sarah is the vocalist's instrumentalist, or the instrumentalist's vocalist, and the four rangy choruses she blows after an extended intro by Joe Pass are on a par with any of the great horn solos. And she never sings the melody. Cheeky Sarah, she knows we know the tune.

Her rich, melted-chocolate tone drips all over this CD, warming a rueful "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," a bittersweet "That's All." "Love Dance" and "The Island" could show the hip hoppers how a grownup experiences and sublimates raw unadulterated s-e-x.

The album features an all-star rhythm section - Pass, Roland Hanna, Andy Simpkins and Harold Jones. But as Norman Granz writes in the liner notes, this is Sarah's baby. Her songs, her arrangers, her musical view. Great view, Sarah.