Masters of American Music: Sarah Vaughan - The Divine One
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Sarah Vaughan The Divine One recounts the stellar singer's career, from her beginnings at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, to her debut at the Apollo Theater and
her pre-eminence in nightclubs, concert halls and jazz festivals around the world. Packed with insightful interviews many with Sarah herself and live performances spanning her
entire career, this is a very special portrait of a woman who was professionally unparalleled. Performances of: The Shadow Of Your Smile; I've Got A Crush On You;
Once In A While; Someone To Watch Over Me; Misty; Send In The Clowns;
Somewhere Over The Rainbow and many more.
This riveting hour shows just how Sarah evolved, visually and vocally; it will leave the viewer with a mixture of joy that this wondrous memento exists and sorrow at the loss of which it reminds us. --Los Angeles Times
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I consider this title to be mandatory for fans of Sarah, but don't expect a lot of music.
In the set this was one of two videos that I most enjoyed and from which I received the most information. In fact, I would place the informational content of this DVD on par with Sassy: The Life Of Sarah Vaughan, which is high praise when a biopic favorably compares to a book.
Among the highlights of the video are the commentaries from friends, family and associates. Making them all the more valuable is the fact that everyone was candid and did not gloss over her shortcomings (nor were those shortcomings dwelt upon either.) The narrative was also informative and delivered matter-of-factly, lending even more credibility to the biography.
Among those providing first hand accounts were her daughter, Billy Eckstine (whose association goes back to the days when he discovered and groomed her), and a parade of musicians who had the pleasure of backing her. The latter group is the most telling because there has always been an invisible, but very tangible, divide between most musicians and vocalists. That divide did not exist for Sarah because she was a musician in her own right (accomplished organist and pianist), and she was well versed in music theory. However, that gained her not only the inclusion, but admiration of her fellow musicians is how she used her voice in the same manner as a physical instrument. To the credit of the producers, writers and film makers, this was not only included, but clearly articulated.
Sarah was a private person who was also a contradiction - a rough, hard drinking and swearing character who exhibited the refinement of a classical diva on stage - that defied description. This movie managed to portray her is relatively broad strokes, in all of her complex splendor, while still maintaining boundaries of privacy and dignity. Most importantly, this video exposes who Sarah was and why she mattered to viewers who may have never given her much thought. And the tragedy is she was always eclipsed in the popular mind by Billie and Ella. Perhaps this video will rectify that.
Even more about Sarah (however brief) is contained in Jazz : A Film By Ken Burns, which I highly recommend. While there is some overlap between that set and this DVD, you are treated to some new information and also how The Divine One fit into the larger body of jazz.
This bio also features the requisite interviews with friends, musical peers and family (her mother and only child, her daughter Paris, are also notably featured). While "The Divine One" clearly leaves you wanting more, it is still a great collector's item--a bird's eye view of one of the two greatest jazz singers--the other of course being Ella Fitzgerald--of the 20th century.
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