April 2009: From Sarah Vaughan to Little Richard

Charlie B. Dahan By

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After a short hiatus, The Vault has reopened to review the latest in jazz and blues reissues, DVDs, books and other irresistible items. This month, we have books on the jazz age and Atlantic Records, CDs from Sarah Vaughan and Buddy Guy, and DVDs of Little Richard and Muddy Waters.

Hazen Schumacher and John Stevens have put together a two-CD music set and an accompanying book for this NPP Books/Voice Of Lyrics Records package. The CDs contain 49 tracks, sampling some of the best big band music recorded during its era of peak popularity. Included are recordings by bands led or fronted by saxophonist Charlie Barnet ("Cherokee"), clarinetist Artie Shaw ("Star Dust"), singer Billie Holiday ("The Man I Love") and saxophonist Coleman Hawkins ("Body and Soul"). However, the track listing on the back only includes the name of each song, leaving readers to wonder who the artists are and whether this is a tribute album of sorts. By contrast, the book is chock full of amazing insights into, and photos of, the artists and records. It is divided into easy-to-follow chapters about each tune and includes a year-by-year analysis. The enterprise treads a fine line between a college level textbook and a general interest tome, and reads like a conversation between two friends and jazz lovers. Entertaining and enlightening.

This coffee-table sized book combines the history of Warner Brother Records (and the many labels it absorbed: Atlantic, Sire, Reprise, etc) from 1958 through 2008 in a thorough and honest fashion, detailing the business, recording processes and the many artists who made their marks on the label. There are many great photos and sidebars offering insights and remembrances from the artists themselves. This warts and all examination is entertaining, and the stories of such legendary executives as Mo Ostin, Seymour Stein, Ahmet Ertegun and Lenny Waroneker, and artists like singers Frank Sinatra and Madonna and guitarist Jimi Hendrix, are enlightening. There is a companion 10-disc CD collection and deluxe package that features both the book and box set.

This beautiful CD collection of a dozen tracks by singer Sarah Vaughan finds her accompanied by a variety of top bands and musicians, including pianist Teddy Wilson's Octet, the Ted Dale Orchestra and a smaller band featuring saxophonist Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Vaughan's voice is in peak form as she weaves in and out of the top players of the era on songs such as "Lover Man," "The One I Love Belongs To Somebody Else" and "Love Me Or Leave Me." While the music and mastering of this collection is top notch, the packaging leaves much to be desired. In today's music retail environment, a package like this demands in-depth liner notes, photos and credits for each recording—each of which is sorely missed.

This single disc collection of 17 tracks from blues guitar legend Buddy Guy, as both a leader and a band member, curates tracks from 1958 through 2001. Included are Junior Wells' recordings "Hoodoo Man Blues," "Stone Crazy" and "Baby Please Don't Leave Me," from the harmonica player and singer's award winning 1965 album, Sweet Tea, which featured Guy. A can't miss collection for fans of guitar and blues virtuosity. The package includes track-by-track credits, a two page essay penned by Bruce Bromberg and a few, mostly recent, photographs.

There is no debating pianist and singer Little Richard's place in rock and roll and modern music history. This concert video chronicles one of the most important moments in his career: the rebirth, the comeback and the reawakening of Little Richard from preacher back to his earlier role as "Architect of Rock and Roll." Richard's performance is that of a man on a mission, a man out to prove he is one of the greatest performers, a reclamation, if you will, of his rightful place. Included on this video are performances of his classic hits "Lucille," "Good Golly, Miss Molly" and "Tutti Frutti," as well as hits of the era "Hound Dog" (recorded perhaps as a challenge to Elvis Presley, as Richard performs the Presley version rather than the more likely Big Mama Thornton original version) and "Blueberry Hill," on which he makes his grand entrance. This is a straight concert video, there are no extras included, but it's Little Richard on a mission, what else do you need? Still want proof? Here is his entrance; it's priceless.

Filmed in 1981, this concert footage documents one of the last shows blues legend, singer and guitarist Muddy Waters would perform. Waters works through his classics like "Got My Mojo Working," "Mannish Boy" and "They Call Me Muddy Waters." In addition to his fine band, Waters is joined on stage by guitarist Johnny Winter. Waters is a bit sluggish throughout this performance, but he is still a master of his guitar and the blues.


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