In terms of creativity, Sarah "Sassy" Vaughan stayed on top of her game for an impressively long time. Vaughan showed tremendous promise when she began recording in 1944, and she maintained her amazing vocal range in the '80s. Spanning 1944-1950, this excellent collection takes a look at Sassy's early output and focuses on her recordings for Musiccraft and, after that, Columbia (the first major label she recorded for). It's Magic (which veteran jazz critic Scott Yanow assembled for Allegro's Jazz Legends series) offers 22 recordings in chronological order, beginning with a 1944 version of Dizzy Gillespie's "Night in Tunisia" and ending with a 1950 arrangement of Juan Tizol's "Perdido." With some collections of early material, one might expect to hear a dramatic evolution over a six-year period -- not so on It's Magic. The 20-year-old Vaughan heard on "Night in Tunisia" wasn't trying to find her way or searching for her voice; she had already found it and was quite distinctive and recognizable in 1944. Vaughan really soars on "Night in Tunisia," and she sounds equally confident on familiar standards that range from "Tenderly" and "Everything I Have Is Yours" to "Just Friends," "Black Coffee," and "East of the Sun." Some of the performances find Vaughan singing with small bebop combos, and some of them contain lavish string arrangements -- even though Vaughan was a jazz singer first and foremost, Musiccraft and Columbia both hoped that she would also appeal to the traditional pop market. And she did; in the '40s and early '50s, pop fans generally found Vaughan to be more accessible than many of the bop instrumentalists who backed her. It's Magic isn't the last word on the singer's early output; nonetheless, this disc is full of essential gems and paints a consistently attractive picture of Sassy during that period.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson