I will admit that Sarah Vaughan is probably one of my favorite jazz vocalists. Billie Holiday is number one followed by Vaughn. Apart from them, others pale by comparison. Vaughan had an incomparable style and a personality to boot. She was discovered when she was 18 in 1942 and she performed right up until her health failed her in the fall of 1989. Vaughan was an original. I was intrigued by a new EP I discovered this week called “Sarah + 1: A Tribute to Sarah Vaughan” by Canadian songstress Delilah. It seems I am not the only fan left. Delilah was born in Budapest, Hungary and was immersed in music from a very young age. She performed with her family in a 20 member touring ensemble with some of Hungary’s greatest musicians. Political upheaval forced the family to move to Canada in 1998 and she quickly became a fixture on the Toronto jazz scene. Beginning with her first release “Jazz” in 2002, Delilah has continued to engage audiences with her vocal presence and her style reminiscent of the ‘30’s and ‘40’s big band era.
On this 4 song EP, Delilah has chosen songs not necessarily made famous by, but certainly in the catalogue of the late Ms. Vaughan. The EP begins with two jazz standards from the 1930’s, ‘September in the Rain’ and ‘Just Friends’ and includes ‘Whatever Lola Wants’ from the 1955 play “Damn Yankees”. The +1 in the EP title refers to the fourth and final song on the album ‘Smile’ which bridges the material and gives it a cohesion. The music for ‘Smile’ was written by Charlie Chaplin and included in his 1936 film “Modern Times” and the lyrics were written in 1955 by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons.
Delilah is not trying to imitate anyone nor is she attempting to recreate Vaughan’s style. She puts her own spin on these classic standards and brings her own interpretation to the material. In fact, rather than a tribute to Vaughan, I see this record as more being inspired by the greats of the past, Vaughan in particular, and bringing the material to a modern audience. She worked on this record with Jim Peterik of Ides of March (‘Vehicle’) and Survivor (‘Eye of the Tiger’) fame and he has certainly brought out her best here. Those classic standards from the Golden age of jazz will not be forgotten and it is great to see young artists embrace the material and bring it to a modern audience. If you must call it a tribute album, go ahead, but I think it’s just a clever excuse to bring songs you love back to life.
Uncle Duke; a.k.a. Rob Penland is the producer and host of "The Mad Music Asylum" a 4 hour weekly syndicated radio show and now a 24 hour streaming internet station.