Sarah Vaughan's Viva! Vaughan is a curious blend of jazz and pop with Latin percussion, with arrangements by ex-Basie sideman Frank Foster, recorded in the midst of the mid-'60s bossa nova craze. Vaughan is in great voice throughout the date and the material is generally first-rate, except for the bland "Night Song." The orchestra is an unusual blend, with seven trombones, flute, violins, piano, bass, and drums, plus Latin percussion, but no trumpets or saxophones. Foster's best arrangements omit the string section: there's a swinging take of Henry Mancini's "Mr. Lucky," a wild if brief "Avalon," a campy "Tea for Two," and Foster's own "Shiny Stockings." Unfortunately, the bossa nova selections ("The Boy from Ipanema" and "Quiet Nights") are burdened with pedestrian string arrangements that date the music as much as the generally uninspired Latin percussion. It's likely that this lack of focus confused the record-buying public as to what type of music this was and caused it to be overlooked. The brevity of the tracks and the lack of solo opportunities for the strong supporting cast (which includes Kai Winding, Jerome Richardson, Barry Galbraith, and George Duvivier, among others) make it seem like receiving airplay was a major goal of this release. However, the golden voice of Sarah Vaughan is this LP's most dominant factor, and it is worth acquiring.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden