Sarah made her first recording when she joined Billy Eckstine’s band in September 1944. It was of Tadd Dameron’s chart of “I’ll Wait and Pray” for the obscure De Luxe label and wasn’t much reissued, which no doubt accounts for its absence here.
These 49 tracks by Sarah were all recorded for small private labels, usually accompanied by small jazz groups but occasionally with big bands, sometimes with strings, or a choir. Considering that the small companies didn’t have access to good equipment, the recording quality throughout is acceptable or better.
This, like Crosby with Whiteman or Sinatra with Riddle, is textbook stuff for the student of popular jazz singing, for Sarah ranks with those two and with Ella Fitzgerald as the greatest artists in the medium.
Whoever picked her material here knew what he was at, for there is a multitude of great songs, a lot of which, like “If You Could See Me Now” or “I’m Through With Love”, never made it out of the 40s. Later she was sometimes compromised by poor material or dreary accompaniments, but here the accent is on the jazz side, and there are many wonderful nuggets amongst the jazz solos. The 1945 “Mean to Me” has a dazzling introduction by Charlie Parker and a later solo by him that makes everything in between seem inconsequential. “All Too Soon” displays 1946 Ben Webster in his pomp, and Dizzy is on several of the early dates.
After she left Eckstine, Sarah joined the John Kirby band for a few months and there are three interesting tracks with the post-Shavers sextet. There are good batches with George Auld’s big band, a trio of Teddy Wilson bands (with Buck and Byas and exquisite Teddy) and the Musicrafts by Tadd Dameron’s Orchestra. Sarah’s then husband George Treadwell, who used to beat her up, solos primly on “Ghost of a Chance”.
Given the sound quality restrictions of the time and the faceless orchestras of Ted Dale and Richard Maltby, neither of whom manage to lay a glove on the singer, this is a very acceptable collection which I shall gratefully stick into my collection of about 50 CDs by the greatest lady jazz singer.
CD1: Signing Off; Night in Tunisia; No Smokes Blues; East of the Sun; Don’t Blame Me; Lover Man; What More Can a Woman Do?; I’d Rather Have a Memory Than a Dream; Mean to Me; Time and Again; I’m Scared; You Go to My Head; It Might as Well Be Spring; All Too Soon; We’re Through; A Hundred Years From Today; If You Could See Me Now; I Can Make You Love Me; You’re Not the Kind; My Kinda Love; You’re Blasé; I’ve Got a Crush on You; I’m Through With Love; Body And Soul; Penthouse Serenade (71.26)
CD2: Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me; Time After Time; September Song; I Cover the Waterfront; Ghost of a Chance; Tenderly; Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child; I Can’t Get Started; Trouble Is a Man; Everything I Have Is Yours; Don’t Blame Me; Love Me or Leave Me; I Get a Kick Out of You; I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter; The One I Love Belongs to Someone Else; I Feel So Smoochie; The Man I Love; It’s You or No One; I’t’s Magic; What a Difference a Day Made; Gentleman Friend; Once in a While; How Am I to Know?; Nature Boy (70.50)
Vaughan (v) with a variety of small groups, 1944-48.