Kevin Whitehead reviews Sarah Vaughan, Divine: The Jazz Albums, 1954-1958:
A lot of jazz singing is about consonants—the percussive attacks the music swings from. With Sarah Vaughan, it’s also about the way she rolls out her vowels, reveling in a held note like Miles Davis. Later her vibrato could get excessive, but in the mid-’50s her taste and control were a marvel. That much is clear from a new anthology of Vaughan on EmArcy, Divine: The Jazz Albums 1954-1958 (Verve Select). (In that period she was made pop albums with strings, and some of the same tunes.) It’s six albums-plus on four CDs, recorded live or in the studio, with bands big and small. All but one session is sparked by another bebop institution, drummer Roy Haynes. He has a springy beat, using brushes, and doesn’t overplay.
Sarah Vaughan had a gallery of vocal timbres, gravelly to silky, round or strident, white-gloved or blues-drenched. Her pitch range was operatic, and her low notes have uncommon power. She drew inspiration from great soloists and gave it right back