During the mid-'50s, Sarah Vaughan spent most of her time recording songbook standards backed by a large orchestra in florid arrangements, with only the occasional breath of fresh air like her masterpiece, 1954's Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown. Four years after that milestone, another landed with the live album At Mister Kelly's. Recorded quite early in the days of the live LP, the album captured Vaughan at her best and most relaxed, stretching out on a set of late-night torch songs and ballads. With a trio including Jimmy Jones on piano, Roy Haynes on drums, and Richard Davis on bass, Vaughan is simply captivating, easily disproving the notion that, to be entertaining, singers needed inventive arrangements and multiple voices (instrumental or otherwise) behind them. Her unerring sense of rhythm carries her through every song on this set, whether the occasion calls for playfulness and wit ("Thou Swell," "Honeysuckle Rose") or a world-wise melancholia ("Willow Weep for Me"). Her accompanists are a valuable anchor, with Haynes' drumming just as precise as Sassy's vocals and Jones' piano solos adding additional vitality.
At Mister Kelly's Review
by John Bush