The Sarah Vaughan Discography

The Sarah Vaughan Discography

Sarah Vaughan was a 20th century American singer. While commonly referred to as a "jazz singer," the improvisatory aspect of her art was focused primarily on ornamentation, phrasing and melodic variation. Perhaps her most noticeable musical mannerism was the creative use of often widely "swooping" glissandi through her wide entire vocal range, which was most sonorous in a dark chest register that grew deeper as she aged. Vaughan approached her voice more as a melodic instrument than an vehicle for dramatic interpretation of lyrics, although the expressive qualities of her style did accentuate lyrical meaning and she would often find playful ways of articulating and coloring individual key words in a lyric.

While Vaughan frequently performed and recorded with large ensembles, her live performances usually featured her accompanied by a piano-led working trio. The membership of this trio changed frequently over the years, although some of her "favorites" stayed with her for extended periods of time and often returned for multiple stints. Even in large-ensemble situations, this trio was often used as the rhythm section to provide continuity. Aside from economy, the trio configuration was flexible and adaptable to differing performing conditions and to Vaughan's improvisatory whims. This minimal instrumentation also provided minimal distraction from Vaughan's unique styling and rich vocal timbre.

Perhaps because of the individuality of her style, she has rarely been overtly imitated by subsequent generations of singers. Unlike other mid-century singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra or, later, Aretha Franklin, there are no prominent singers whose style is an obvious direct reflection of Vaughan's. However, even in death Vaughan retains a loyal following and attracts new fans through her recorded legacy. This discography is a tribute to her and her remarkable body of work.

The primary reference for this material is Leslie Gourse's excellent biography, Sassy - The Life of Sarah Vaughan (Da Capo Press, 1994). The historical narrative is derived from a substantial revision of Vaughan's biography that I posted on on February 14, 2007. Photos are from the Wikimedia commons, and the photographers include: William P. Gottlieb, Library of Congress (1946), James Kriegsmann (1955), ANEFO (1963), The White House (1977), and Brian McMillen (1981, CCSA).

Sarah Vaughan Discography: Early Years
Sarah Vaughan Discography: The 1950s
Sarah Vaughan Discography: The 1960s
Sarah Vaughan Discography: The 1970s
Sarah Vaughan Discography: The 1980s
The Sarah Vaughan Discography: People
The Sarah Vaughan Discography: Songs