These two recordings, made four years apart, are different in one significant way, their producers. How Long Has This Been Going On? (1978), with an all-star lineup of Oscar Peterson, Joe Pass, Ray Brown and Louie Bellson, was produced by veteran Norman Granz. Crazy and Mixed Up (1982), which includes Pass on guitar, but Roland Hanna on piano, Andy Simpkins on bass, and Harold Jones on drums, was produced by Vaughan herself, the first and only time this occurred. Hence, Crazy and Mixed Up is less a recording that Vaughan contributed to and more a personal statement. She consistently sings into the songs on Crazy and Mixed Up, treating "Seasons," for example, as though its her own, definitively. In contrast, on "Ive Got the World on a String," the first track on How Long Has This Been Going On?, Peterson and Pass are more obtrusive and not merely musician helpers. The artistic effect is no less intense, but Vaughan shares the spotlight with the supporting cast. On Crazy and Mixed Up, shes the whole show.
Of course, JVC has a way with sound, and neither of these CDs can be considered anything but very good. Both display the characteristic XRCD smoothness -- the notes seem to flow more organically -- and high resolution. Crazy and Mixed Up is an XRCD2, a second-generation remastering from JVC, and I cant say for sure that the newer process makes for a better-sounding recording. Even so, it is the more intimate of the two, while How Long Has This Been Going On? has more air and ambience. Vaughans voice can bring out the worst in an audio system, overly exciting the upper-midrange region thats the Achilles heel of poor digital. Here, however, she sounds great, perhaps as good as youll hear her, digital or analog.
Listening to these CDs makes me wonder how popular Sarah Vaughan would be today if she were alive and in her prime. Modern-day jazz divas such as Diana Krall and Cassandra Wilson rely as much on the artistic posture of their deliveries, which they have cultivated very well, as Vaughan does on her ability to crawl into a song and interpret it on its own terms. These times seem to demand diversity and quirkiness more than simple craftsmanship, but a talent as large as Vaughans would certainly be understood and praised. And we have these two fine remastered recordings as proof. Both offer a full dose of Sarah mixed with audiophile-grade sound that only enhances the performances.
GO BACK TO: