Sarah Vaughan – Snowbound – Roulette R 52091/ PurePleasure PPAN R52091 (1962) 180gm audiophile stereo vinyl ****:
(Sarah Vaughan, vocals; unknown string section, woodwinds, and rhythm section; Strings arranged and conducted by Don Costa; Originally produced by Teddy Reig; re-mastered by Sean Magee at Abbey Road Studio)
PurePleasure Records, from England, should be commended for re-issuing relatively ignored jazz issues from the 1950s and 1960s, and giving them the benefit of remastering in upgraded sound on 180gm vinyl.
Snowbound was issued during Vaughan’s years with Roulette Records which lasted from approximately 1960 to 1964. Most of Roulette’s issues were produced by Teddy Reig, an inimitable character, who was known for giving his label artists free rein to work their magic. That worked particularly well with the Count Basie Band.
For Snowbound, Sarah was matched with Don Costa, who did the arrangements and conducted the strings and woodwinds. For the eleven tracks on the album, largely ballad standards were chosen, such as “Stella by Starlight,” “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” and “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.”
Sarah’s gorgeous alto and vibrato are put to good use and she does not coast, simply content to earn an easy paycheck. For this ballad collection, Vaughan’s only rival would have been Ella Fitzgerald. Both could have sung from a phone book as their voices were so glorious.
Sassy has her fun with the Gershwin’s “Blah, Blah, Blah,” one of the overlooked compositions of the two brothers. The strings and woodwinds are unobtrusive and give Vaughan the minimal support she needs. They are there for mood setting, and that they do.
On “I Remember You” Sarah shows her ability to bend a vocal or extend with vibrato, a vocal phrase. Her voice was in her prime, and it is a joy today to hear her make each song her own. The remastering by Sean Magee, done at the iconic Abbey Road Studios, is firstrate. The strings and woodwinds are mixed perfectly for listening as they are perfectly set on the sound stage leaving Vaughan upfront, but neither overwhelming, nor so distant as to be irrelevant.
For fans of Ms. Vaughan, Snowbound would be a welcome addition to their collection of this jazz vocalist supreme.
Side 1: Snowbound, I Hadn’t Anyone ‘til You; What’s Good about Goodbye; Stella By Starlight; Look to Your Heart; Oh, You Crazy Moon
Side 2: Blah, Blah, Blah; I Remember You; I Fall in Love Too Easily; Glad to be Unhappy; Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most
Mack Avenue Records released a stunning live album!