Sarah Vaughan: Live at Rosy’s

Following a lengthy Following a lengthy fallow period, the late 1970s proved a particularly fertile time for Sarah Vaughan. In 1977 she signed with Norman Granz’s Pablo label and began a stellar series of studio albums. In May 1978, not long after the first Pablo release, Vaughan arrived in New Orleans for a week at Rosy’s, owned by 21-year-old Rosalie Wilson. Portions of the gig were captured for a Jazz Alive broadcast. Those recordings, recently uncovered in NPR’s archives, shape this double-disc set.

Vaughan is in exemplary form: loose, imaginative and energized, her late-career tendency toward over-stylization held largely in check. As she settles into her favored and most effective setting, tight with a top-drawer trio-drummer Jimmy Cobb alongside bassist Walter Booker and pianist Carl Schroeder-her relaxed satisfaction shines through. The all-standards set favors balladry, at which she knew no equal, including such signature selections as “The Man I Love,” “Poor Butterfly” and “Send in the Clowns.” But the lighthearted Vaughan is also evident, particularly when a patron mistakes her for Ella and requests “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.” She playfully complies, insisting, “But then I’m going to tell you who I am,” before serving up a twistedly girlish rendition.

Though never intended for commercial release, the sound quality across these 22 tracks, spanning close to 90 minutes, is superb. The package is made that much more valuable with essays by James Gavin and Will Friedwald, plus interviews with Wilson, Cobb, Booker and Vaughan’s onetime labelmate, vocalist Helen Merrill.