Album review

Sarah Vaughan – ‘Live at The Berlin Philharmonie 1969’

Sarah Vaughan – Live at The Berlin Philharmonie 1969

(The Lost Recordings TLR 2004037. Album review by Lauren Bush)

This double disc release of Sarah Vaughan at the 1969 Berliner Jazztage combines two concerts from that day – one previously televised and released on CD with another set of never before heard content on disc 2.

Sarah Vaughan album cover

At the end of the 1960s, Vaughan was without a record label, and while some say this is due to her falling out of favour as her voice darkened with age, others argue that it was the first time she was allowed to sing and do what she wanted. Vaughan toured a lot in these few years and played with her trio – a setting which she much preferred to the big band pop stylings that were being pushed on her to record for Mercury and Roulette.

The thing about Sarah is that she not only had the musical knowledge and the harmonic understanding, but she also had the vocal technique to make her voice do pretty much anything she could imagine up in her creative mind. The more confident she became as an artist, the more we got to see this side of her. 

This concert at the Berlin Philharmonie is essentially the pinnacle of these elements coming together. She throws in crowd pleasing numbers like All of Me and Fly Me to the Moon, satisfies an audience request with My Funny Valentine and never forgets to include Tenderly. She’s never done it the same way twice and this is no exception.

On the Bacharach classic, Alfie, Vaughan dives into the deepest part of her range, filling every semibreve with her rich vibrato, creating phrases with so much emotional pull; from heartbreak to the warmest hug. The Sweetest Sounds has some funky hits and Vaughan’s sassy side comes to the forefront through the lyrics. Time After Time, usually done as a medium swing, is slowed right down and used as Vaughan’s playground of vocal delights, only accompanied by pianist Johnny Veith, and is met with whoops and hollers from the audience. 

The trio, Veith on piano, Gus Mancuso on double bass and Eddy Pucci on drums are mostly just along for the ride on this day. They do a great job providing a blank canvas for Vaughan to paint her masterpieces. Veith’s stride-like stylings on ballads like Misty and Polkadots and Moonbeams fill the spaces and accompany her voice beautifully, and Mancuso and Pucci strap in for the up tempo numbers like I Cried for You, The Trolley Song and I Had a Ball that probably knocked even their socks off. Solos are not on the menu here but it’s not even noticeable; Vaughan’s artistry is more than enough. 

This album is a real treat, up there with Live at the Tivoli and Mr Kelly’s, and totally worth adding to the shelf. 

LINK: 10 Sarah Vaughan tracks I can’t do without…by Lauren Bush

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