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Sarah Vaughan Jazz Vocal Competition

London chanteuse Deelee Dubé takes top prize

From left: NJPAC President and CEO John Schreiber, Deelee Dubé (first place), Sinne Eeg (second) and Lauren Scales (third) at the 2016 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition
London’s Deelee Dubé, the winner of the 2016 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition
Contestants, judges and musicians at the 2016 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition

Singing jazz competently is an uncommon skill, a high bar that most aspirants will never reach. Becoming a worthy heir to Sarah Vaughan, however, is another thing entirely.

The kind of perfection that Vaughan personified-a combination of artistic refinement and authentic emotion, chops and musical sensitivity-comes along once or twice in a generation. So it’s not a critique of any of the contestants at the 2016 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition for women-dubbed the “Sassy Awards,” after Vaughan’s nickname, and held on Sunday at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark-if most audience members’ socks stayed firmly in place. While all the singers trod a fairly conventional path through a program mostly consisting of jazz standards, the eventual winner, London chanteuse Deelee Dubé, displayed a beguiling soulfulness and a relaxed, solid sense of swing.

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