Series supervised by Chad Kassem CEO of Acoustic Sounds
"Sarah Vaughan is among the newest, and most highly anticipated, releases in the 'Acoustic Sounds Series' of releases, a joint effort by what Universal Music Group calls its Verve Label Group, consisting of Verve, Mercury, EmArcy, Philips, Impulse! and Decca. The series is curated by Chad Kassem of Acoustic Sounds and pressed by Quality Record Pressings Company, while UNG maintains control of ownership and distribution. The new year saw the simultaneous release of this title along with Clifford Brown's A Study In Brown, Peggy Lee's Black Coffee and George Russell's New York, N.Y. Of this tranche of new releases, it is the Sarah Vaughan title that gets the pulse rate elevated. Arguably Vaughan's best record, originals are almost impossible to find in collectable condition.
"Sarah Vaughan sits among that triumvirate of jazz's greatest singers, along with Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Yet Vaughan's gifts are quite distinct from those of the other two. It is hard to imagine even the most casual jazz lover mistaking Ella or Billie for anyone else. Ella's tone and diction are unmistakable, but her sense of swing was unique. Billie's tempo and tone, not to mention her dark, turbulent emotional content were worlds away and yet what joined them was their gift for improvisational genius. Sarah's greatest gift, on the other hand was her amazing instrument. Her deep vibrato, her operatic ability to turn on a dime or slide through a phrase was more like a horn in some ways than the more limited human voice. She could not come close to Billie's ability to emote nor did she share Ella's engagement with swing but neither of them (or virtually anyone else) could touch her three-octave range and exquisite control. She was a virtuoso like no other jazz singer with breath control to spare, and an exceptional ability to intimately collaborate with the musicians playing at her side.
"These gifts were never on better display than in this 1954 album. Like many artists, she objected to being pigeonholed as a 'jazz' singer, and during many phases of her career recorded mostly commercial pop tunes as well as light classical fare with symphony orchestras. But this early recording catches her at a peak and with the best group of her career. It was her only session with trumpet legend Clifford Brown. Paul Quinichette played tenor saxophone, with Roy Haynes on drums, Joe Benjamin on bass, Jimmy Mones on piano and Herbie Mann on flute. The band plays a set of nine standards, among them 'April In Paris', 'Lullaby Of Birdland' and It's Crazy.' Vaughan leaves plenty of room for instrumental solos, and those of Brown and Quinichette are particularly breathtaking. The album is filled with highlights, but if you want to really hear what is magical about Vaughan's voice, nothing matches her rendition of 'Embraceable You', where the winds sit out and it is just Sarah and the rhythm section. Sarah's soaring voice and gentle vibrato never sounded sexier. EmArcy Records was formed as a subsidiary of Mercury Records to compete with Verve (home base for Ella and Billie) and to achieve parity signed up Dinah Washington, Cannonball Adderley, Max Roach, Clifford Brown and Vaughan. This 1954 mono studio date, (EmArcy's fifth release) was recorded by an anonymous engineer and captures Vaughan's voice beautifully. The band is captured well by 1954 standards, better than most contemporary Billie Holiday sessions, but not quite up to some of the best by Ella. That said, the sound is excellent, missing by little the sound of the greatest mono recordings, where the instruments are perfectly defined in space. Still, the sound of the instruments is captured remarkably well and spread out over a broad mono stage.
"The Verve CD, by comparison, stacks the musicians front to back, boosts the bass artificially and sounds. The (Ryan K. Smith) mastering and the pressing from Quality Record Pressings, however, is perfect. The packaging is better by far than an original, with the deluxe Stoughton foldout cover offering bonus Hermann Leonard photographs. This is everything a vinyl reissue should be." Recording = 9/10; Music = 10/10 — Dennis D. Davis, Hi-Fi +, Issue 194
"Sarah Vaughan was the supreme jazz singer. Smoky lows, silky highs, precise articulation across five octaves, a keen connection with a lyric, boundless harmonic inventiveness, and a sense of swing, which swayed and simmered, front and center, always. Later, Vaughan barely hid her boredom when stuck with material that didn't suit her, but at her peaks, with small ensembles, she was, and remains, matchless. This eponymous album, recorded in December 1954 when Vaughan was just 30, ranks among her classics — and thus among the classics of jazz vocal albums. Midtempo standards ("Lullaby of Birdland," "April in Paris," "Embraceable You") a top-notch sextet (with Clifford Brown, whose death in a car crash a year-and-a-half later, at 25, would cut short the career of a trumpeter rivaled only by Miles Davis); and Vaughan's evocative, mesmerizing, naturally gorgeous voice — what more could you want? Good sound? The sound here, better than you might expect from 66-year-old mono tapes, is more than good enough. Vaughan is particularly present — up close, full-blooded, and detailed — as are the horns when they solo. The other instruments are a bit distant but not hooded. There is a slight electronic haze over the proceedings, as on several Mercury recordings of the era, but it's barely noticeable, except compared with say, Ella Fitzgerald's sonic jaw-droppers for Verve a few years later. The reissue — another collaboration between Universal Music and Acoustic Sounds — sounds markedly better than the original pressing. A must-have." — Performance = 5/5; Sonics = 4.5/5 — Fred Kaplan, Stereophile.com, May 2021
Seeking to offer definitive audiophile grade versions of some of the most historic and best jazz records ever recorded, Verve Label Group and Universal Music Enterprises' new audiophile Acoustic Sounds vinyl reissue series utilizes the skills of top mastering engineers and the unsurpassed production craft of Quality Record Pressings. All titles are mastered from the original analog tapes, pressed on 180-gram vinyl and packaged by Stoughton Printing Co. in high-quality gatefold sleeves with tip-on jackets. The releases are supervised by Chad Kassem, CEO of Acoustic Sounds, the world's largest source for audiophile recordings.
This 1954 studio date, a self-titled album recorded for Emarcy, was later reissued as Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown to denote the involvement of one of the top trumpeters of the day. Vaughan sings nine intimate standards with a band including Brown on trumpet, Herbie Mann on flute, and Paul Quinichette on tenor, each of which have plenty of space for solos (most of the songs are close to the five-minute mark).
AllMusic says Vaughan is arguably in the best voice of her career here, pausing and lingering over notes on the standards "April in Paris," "Jim," and "Lullaby of Birdland." As touching as Vaughan is, however, Brown almost equals her with his solos on "Lullaby of Birdland," "Jim," and "September Song," displaying his incredible bop virtuosity in a restrained setting without sacrificing either the simple feeling of his notes or the extraordinary flair of his choices.