“Sarah Vaughan: The Divine One” is an informative documentary on
the EuroArts label, reissued on DVD in 2010. This limited edition was
originally made for television in 1991, as a part of the Masters of
American Music series, and has been digitally remastered.
Although the running time is only 56 minutes, this documentary
effectively chronicles Sarah Vaughan’s life and career, with
performances of such songs as “Misty,” “Send in the Clowns,”
“The Shadow of Your Smile,” and others. These are interspersed
with revealing interviews with her mother and daughter, as well as
with her colleagues, including Joe Williams, Billy Eckstine, Roy Hanes,
Marty Paich, and George Gaffney.
The merging picture was of a woman with enormous talent who
could be “one of the guys” quite often, but had a tremendous
work ethic and could be uncompromising. Apparently, she was
also a very private person.
There is footage describing Sarah Vaughan’s early years singing
with the Mt. Zion Baptist Church Choir in Newark, New Jersey,
followed by her association with Billy Eckstine’s band during the
early 1940’s. At that time, she was in her late teens. Her occasional
forays into the world of pop music are also discussed.
Sarah Vaughan’s voice was a marvel, and her range of roughly
three octaves was clearly evident in many of the songs featured
from various stages of her career. It seemed to me to be a very
flexible instrument, which could move from her normal contralto/mezzo
register up to marvelously high head tones, without any audible
breaks or shifts. Many of her colleagues mentioned how she
would phrase music “like a horn.” Her well-rounded musicianship
was also demonstrated by footage showing her accompanying
herself on the piano.
Considering the relatively short length of this DVD, a satisfying
biographical profile emerges. I personally wish that it were a bit
longer, with more footage from the 1940’s and 1950’s, but perhaps
that footage was not available when this feature was made.
“Sarah Vaughan: The Divine One” is nonetheless highly recommended.