In general I am not a big fan of vocal jazz. Nothing against the singers, I do not have a rational explanation, it’s just not one of my favorite styles of jazz. So today I decided to step out of my comfort zone and review a vocal jazz album I have never heard before. This album is a 1954 release and is considered to be a jazz classic. Despite my lack of enthusiasm with vocal jazz will I love this record? Let’s dig into it and find out.
This record is as classic jazz as classic jazz can get. If you are a casual jazz listener and you close your eyes and imagine what jazz music sounds like it, this is what will come to mind. Still, just because it’s a very popular form of jazz music that doesn’t mean it is good. So the question still remains, Is this a good album? Lucky for us, Clifford Brown and Sarah Vaughan are some of the best musicians to ever walk the earth, and this album reinforces that statement. This 9+ track album (Some versions have alternate takes) is fantastic at creating an intimate performance of a small combo. Even with my lack of enthusiasm for vocal jazz I found this album to be quiet enjoyable.
Clifford Brown does a great job of playing accordIng to the setting. This is a soft, gentle, recording. He doesn’t try to shed like crazy, doesn’t try to show off his chops, or play too loudly. He understands these are beautiful slow tunes and plays them appropriately. Sarah Vaughan fits this record like a glove. Obviously she is at the forefront, but it truly feels like she is an equal part of the band, not just an addition to a ready-made combo that wanted a singer. Songs like “Lullaby of Birdland”, “April in Paris”, and “Jim” are some of my favorites.
My only complaint of this album is the lack of diversity in the repertoire. A couple of latin tunes, an uptempo track, a few extra solos, some variety would have been nice. Still the album is barely 50 minutes long so I feel it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome even with the lack of variety. For those who love vocal jazz, classic jazz, listening to this album is a must. If you are like me and not a big fan of vocal jazz, this is still a must listen to record. I highly recommend it and can’t really imagine a scenario where this album shouldn’t be in your collection.