Here, Naxos takes listeners on a fascinating tour through Miss Sassy's earliest sides via a plethora of small, now-defunct labels and a galaxy of fabled bop and swing bandleaders and players. This was not the husky-voiced, swooping diva who much of the world came to know later; rather, Vaughan was a lighter, silkier soprano in the mid-'40s, more in the manner of the species of big band voices which an older generation of journalists used to call "thrushes." The disc opens with six tunes for the Continental label and one for Guild with various combos led by Dizzy Gillespie. You know you're in good hands on the very first track, "Mean to Me," which opens promisingly to the instantly recognizable flurries of Charlie Parker, with Flip Phillips and Gillespie to follow, no less. Vaughan has the temerity to take on the Billie Holiday signature song "Lover Man," and doesn't sound unseasoned or superficial in the least. Next is Sassy's recorded debut, "I'll Wait and Pray," a majestic performance on the DeLuxe label from December 5, 1944, with hints of the gliding, sassy contralto of the future. Her backing is no less newsworthy, a rare recorded appearance by the fabled Billy Eckstine big band that helped incubate the forthcoming bop revolution. Four ballad sides for Crown with John Kirby's combo from 1946 follow, with a lovely rendition of the then-brand-new standard "It Might As Well Be Spring" being the most alluring. The disc concludes with five examples of her work for Musicraft, including a hypnotic "September Song" and one for HRS, "We're Through," that also contains hints of the older Sassy's style. Anyone who wants to trace the evolution of Sarah Vaughan should start right here at the beginning.
AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell
feat: Billy Eckstine
feat: Teddy Wilson
feat: Teddy Wilson