Sarah Vaughan: Midnight Sun

Sarah Vaughan's detractors felt that she too often allowed her multi-octave, almost limitlessly flexible voice to distort rather than enhance the meaning of a lyric and/or the original quality of a melody. However, there's a fine line between distortion and enhancement, and a true jazz singer is expected to take at least some liberties with a tune as written. Vaughan, it must be admitted, did occasionally go over that line, her embellishments and tonal acrobatics to some extent overwhelming the inherent grace of a melody or lyric.

"Midnight Sun" is one example of Vaughan losing control. The rendition begins gloriously with an unassuming Vaughan and Joe Pass's nuanced accompaniment, but as soon as Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown and Louie Bellson enter, things start to go awry. Peterson's overly busy piano at first drowns out the more judicious Pass before a balance is finally achieved, and Vaughan milks the life out of certain words and phrases and sometimes seems to be singing in a separate room from her backing quartet. Although she returns to a more discerning approach near the end, it's not enough to fully reclaim this rare uneven effort. Perhaps the irresistible poetry of Johnny Mercer's lyrics lend themselves to excess, but compare this track to Nancy Wilson's version to hear how less can indeed be more.

March 04, 2009 · 0 comments


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