Sarah Vaughan

Sophisticated Lady: The Duke Ellington Songbook Collection

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Sarah Vaughan debuted on Norman Granz's Pablo label in 1978, announcing herself immediately with a triumphant set titled How Long Has This Been Going On? After a Brazilian LP in 1979, she turned to an ambitious project: the Duke Ellington songbook, eventually released as two separate volumes. The Concord set Sophisticated Lady reissues the complete contents of those two LPs, plus a brace of unreleased tracks that might just overshadow the original program. (Not for nothing do they lead off this collection, instead of being tacked on the end.) On August 13, 1979, Vaughan had begun the project by recording six songs with arranger genius Benny Carter, plus a large string section and a basic band including Jimmy Rowles on piano, Grady Tate on drums, and Andy Simpkins on bass. Carter's charts for "Lush Life" and "Solitude" help bring out the best in Vaughan, and she sounds (especially on "Solitude") as if she were still in her prime. These six songs had never appeared before 2013, but it's a glory to find them here, finally. The rest of these sessions, recorded from mid-August to late January of 1980, are no slouch either. Vaughan's natural register is quite deep, but she still possessed the range she had 20 years earlier, and she'd only gained in her interpretive skills. Accompanying her are yet more heavyweights: Zoot Sims, Frank Foster, or Frank Wess on tenor, Joe Pass or Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar, J.J. Johnson on trombone, and Waymon Reed on trumpet or fl├╝gelhorn. Although the pacing is rarely upbeat (often a pitfall of '70s jazz standards), the results approach the peak of vocal Duke Ellington tributes, Ella Fitzgerald's 1957 Sings the Duke Ellington Song Book, recorded with the entire Ellington band and charts from Billy Strayhorn.

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