Sarah Vaughan - "In The Land Of Hi-Fi"

Sarah Vaughan • In The Land Of Hi-Fi • 1955 • Emarcy MG 36058
Recorded October 25, 26 & 27, 1955 in NYC

The Selection:

The Players:

Sarah Vaughan - Vocals
Cannonball Adderley - Alto Saxophone
Sam Marowitz - Alto Saxophone
Jerome Richardson - Tenor Saxophone, Flute
Bernie Glow - Trumpet
Ernie Royal - Trumpet
J.J. Johnson - Trombone
Kai Winding - Trombone
Turk Van Lake - Guitar
Jimmy Jones - Piano
Joe Benjamin - Bass
Roy Haynes - Drums
Ernie Wilkins - Conductor

The Tracks:

A1. Over The Rainbow
A2. Soon
A3. Cherokee
A4. I'll Never Smile Again
A5. Don't Be On The Outside
A6. How High The Moon
B1. It Shouldn't Happen To A Dream
B2. Sometimes I'm Happy
B3. Maybe
B4. An Occasional Man
B5. Why Can't I
B6. Oh My

The Record:

This would be "Sassy" Sarah Vaughan's second outing for Mercury's EmArcy imprint, and while doing some reading up on her career to this point, I came across an interesting tidbit: it turns out that after leaving Columbia for Mercury, her manager negotiated a unique contract with the label that had Sassy recording the more popular (and more lucrative) pop standards of the day for Mercury, while at the same time she would explore more jazz-oriented material on EmArcy. This makes plenty of sense, as I've never been a huge fan of her Mercury sides, finding them more sappy than sassy. The EmArcy sides on the other hand, are exciting and vibrant, and show off Vaughan's talents while making the kind of music she apparently enjoyed making the most. 

In The Land Of Hi-Fi adds a nice twist to the usual high-standards of her EmArcy recordings, in that one of the featured players is a young Cannonball Adderley. According to the liner notes (where he is still referred to as the Florida Flash), he "flew north with alto under arm especially to take part on these sides." This must have been considered an incredible opportunity, as Vaughan was a pretty big star by this time. He is the featured soloist on a number of the tracks, and Cannonball performs quite admirably, although at this time his playing is still influenced by the bop style of the day.  Just check him out on "How High The Moon" above, where he gets a featured chorus along with some great call-and-response refrains with Vaughan as she scats away. The liner notes do take the time to let the listener know that on this track Cannonball was "wearing earphones to enable him to hear Sarah's voice (isolated in a booth for the session)." I guess this was quite technologically advanced for the time!

Other players of note in the Ernie Wilkins' conducted orchestra are the trombone tag-team of J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding, tenor saxophone Jerome Richardson and Ernie Royal on trumpet. The rhythm section is made up of Vaughan's "usual sidekicks" (according to the liner notes) in the form of pianist Jimmy Jones, Joe Benjamin on bass and the great jazz drummer Roy Haynes. 

The selections consist of a fair amount of standards, as well as lesser known older tunes, and even a few tracks that the liner notes say are "1955 compositions that happen to fit her style well enough to have earned permanent preservation between LP covers." Vaughan is on fire on all the songs, performing her usual vocal acrobatics that keep the listener at the edge of their seat, never quite sure where she will take the tune. But, this isn't just a showcase for Sassy to show off, any tricks she pulls out of her bag are all perfectly suited to the material at hand. She proves once again why she is considered to be one of the greatest vocalists of the jazz age, and although throughout her career she was often dogged by criticism that her output was too pop-oriented, her EmArcy sides show that given the chance she could hang with any and all of her contemporaries. 

The Vinyl:

My copy is an original mono pressing with the blue EmArcy label featuring the "drummer" logo, and I like how it features both the recording dates and some featured players right on the label. The sound quality is not quite as vibrant as I'd expected and there is some slight distortion in the playback, although this is probably due to the care it didn't receive over the years and can hopefully be cured with a good deep cleaning. Overall, though, as with most jazz vocal music recorded during this time, the fullness of sound on these vintage vinyl pressing blows away all the CD releases. 

The vinyl has "MG 36058 A" and "MG 36058 B" stamped into the respective sides, while the notation "MF 3" is stamped on Side A and "MF 4" is stamped on Side B. Not sure what the latter markings mean, something to do with parent company Mercury Records or the pressing plant, perhaps?

The glossy cover image is an iconic shot of the gorgeous Mrs. Vaughan, one that sets the stage for the beautiful music contained within. I paid $12 for this copy (it was another 20% off purchase, this time off of the original $15 price tag), which is great for an original EmArcy pressing. While her Mercury recordings from the 1950's are often found in abundance in the record store racks, these EmArcy titles aren't so easily acquired. Along with In The Land Of Hi-Fi, other EmArcy titles to keep a sharp eye out for are her self-titled label debut with Clifford Brown and the trio session Swingin' Easy.  Any of these titles are prime examples of Sassy's talents in the jazz realm from this period of her long and illustrious career.

Sarah Vaughan At The Piano (Date & Photo Credit Unknown)