Friday, April 23, 2010

Music DVD Review: Masters of American Music -- Sarah Vaughan: The Divine One (1993)

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Even though the fact that she could push a one syllable word throughout a rollercoaster of her three plus octave range by dragging it out as though it were five syllables both endeared and infuriated the fans of Sarah Vaughan, she nonetheless ranked number one for five consecutive years as the “favorite girl singer” of her era.

Fluent in jazz, pop and bebop, Vaughan never encountered a standard song she wanted to sing straight, which was why her interpretation of “Body and Soul” sung on a dare in a contest as a teenager soon found her joining big bands where – much like Billie Holiday – she used her voice as an instrument to spontaneously get into the freewheeling rhythm as though it were a trumpet or saxophone.

Known as The Divine One to the fans who likened Vaughan to operatic diva royalty, dubbed Sailor by those who new “Sassy” Sarah best for her gift to “out-cuss Popeye the Sailor Man” with the boys on the road, the diverse Ms. Vaughn is profiled in this compelling and beautifully preserved piece of musical portraiture.

Part documentary, part interview retrospective, and part musical performance, the Masters of American Music Limited Edition digitally remastered, region free, Sarah Vaughan: The Divine One is a delight for fans eager to discover more than just the bare minimum of biographical facts.

And this intimacy is what we're treated to from those who knew her best including the two she lived with in the form of her mother and her daughter – both of whom speak candidly about the private, professional Vaughan who had a big heart that was often broken but who managed to touch the hearts of so many all with that signature voice.

Although it clocks in at merely fifty-six minutes, the DVD which plays worldwide in all models of players as a Region 0 disc offers some lush performance footage that showcases Vaughan at various periods in her extraordinary career, highlighting the admirable way that unlike many jazz artists she was able to transcend musical genres and continue to have a career for five decades.

From “I've Got a Crush on You” to some of her most famous interpretations of “Misty,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Send in the Clowns,” it's a beautiful work all around, even if it ultimately leaves you wanting more... much like a talented “girl singer” who stretches out the notes before exiting the stage to thunderous applause and cries of “Encore.”

One of four new discs released in the Masters of American Music series including titles devoted to John Coltrane, Count Basie and the blues with Bluesland, Sarah Vaughan: The Divine One follows the successful launch of the previous quartet of jazz themed limited edition bows in late 2009.

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FTC Disclosure:
Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.
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