Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition

WBGO's Monifa Brown: My Sarah Vaughan

Monifa Brown tells us how  Sarah "Sassy" Vaughan first entered her life. Read on!

When I was a voice student at New York’s LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts, I had this dream: I would meet Sarah Vaughan, and she would take me under her wing.

I would apprentice with one of the greatest voices to ever grace the planet.

Photo: William P. Gottlieb / LOC
Photo: William P. Gottlieb / LOC

Needless to say, that never happened. But to this day, Sarah’s emotive and highly textured, multi-octave contralto can move me to tears - in an instant.

Her voice is without rival. It is transformational.

With a single note, Sassy can create a state of euphoria: her spine-tingling vibrato and cascading turns of phrase can nestle you deep inside the bluesy harmonic crevices of a song.

“Music was my refuge,” Dr. Maya Angelou once said. “I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness."

I often wondered if she had Sarah Vaughan in mind when she wrote that.

Here’s Sarah, in her own words: “When I sing, trouble can sit right on my shoulder - and I don't even notice.”

Photo: William P. Gottlieb / LOC
Photo: William P. Gottlieb / LOC

I have always gravitated towards music and musicians that elicit a visceral reaction, or emotional and spiritual awakening. Those are the musicians who transcend their art.

They are the creative spirits who make you aware that artistry flows through them – it emanates from a higher source.

For me, 'The Divine One' is such an artist.  Her voice is the perfect balance of yin and yang; it is the ebb and flow of the cerebral and the visceral, the technical and emotional, of restraint and wild abandon. Sassy's instrument is the ultimate voice.

My parents played all of the great female vocalists when I was coming up. In addition to Sarah, they loved Billie, Nina, Ella, Betty, Abbey and Nancy.

But there was one particular day when I began to really appreciate what I was experiencing.

It started on a sunny afternoon in Brooklyn's Clinton Hill section, where I grew up: a few apartments away from John Ore, down the street from Lester Bowie and the Marsalises, and a few blocks away from Oliver Lake.

I ventured out on a warm Saturday afternoon to rummage through Pratt Institute's Street Fair. I was looking for vintage clothes, so I could make some sort of Denise Huxtable-Gordon Gartrell ensemble.

Don't laugh - yes, I liked to make my own crazy clothes back in the day!

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What I found was so much more. Somewhere between Dekalb and Willoughby Avenues, buried deep in a milk crate, I found a cassette of a Sarah’s 1954 Emarcy session with Clifford Brown.

For less than $2, I held in my hand what would spark my lifelong affinity for one of the world's greatest voices.

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I remember spending hours in my room that afternoon listening to that album, again and again.

In the days and weeks that followed, I was on a crusade to match Sassy’s impeccable and swinging solo on George Shearing's “Lullaby Of Birdland” note for note.

If you ever happen to hear me playing this track on air, know that as it is pumping through the speakers at WBGO, I am once again trying to scat those brilliant lines.

As a teenager, just beginning to understand heartache, disappointment and romance, Sarah's honey-drenched delivery of songs like “Jim” - which we hear above - spoke to me.

The cry in her voice spoke to my soul.

Sassy's flawless diction, irrepressible sense of swing and the sheer beauty of her instrument were undeniable - unlike anything I had ever heard.

They are still unlike anything I have ever heard.

In a word, Divine.

- Monifa Brown, host of Saturday Afternoon Jazz

Follow Monifa on Twitter: @globaljazzqueen

SVVC Finalists Christie & Rogers: Listen Now

Singers Kathryn Christie & Shacara Rogers talk with Michael Bourne about being finalists in the 2014 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. Both will perform on Nov. 16 at NJPAC in Newark for the 2014 Sassy Award. Enjoy!

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SVVC Finalists Kelsey-Sugg & McKenzie: Listen Now

Singers Kate Kelsey-Sugg & Sarah McKenzie talk with Sheila Anderson about being finalists in the 2014 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. Both perform on Nov. 16 at NJPAC in Newark for the 2014 Sassy Award. Enjoy!

[caption id="attachment_15659" align="aligncenter" width="602" caption="(L-R): Kate Kelsey-Sugg & Sarah McKenzie"](L-R): Kate Kelsey-Sugg & Sarah McKenzie[/caption]

Larry Rosen on 2014 Sarah Vaughan Competition: Listen Now

Producer Larry Rosen talks with Rhonda Hamilton about the 2014 Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition. The contest is called "the search for the next great female jazz singer" and accepts submissions online through September for a final competition which will be held at NJPAC in November. Enjoy!

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Sarah Vaughan Finalist Teira Church With Rhonda Hamilton

Singer Teira Church talks with WBGO's Rhonda Hamilton about her participation in the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, and her inspirations, including Ella Fitzgerald and Nancy Wilson.

Church is one of five finalists who perform November 10 at 3 p.m. at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center's Victoria Theater for this year's "Sassy" Award, named for jazz singer and Newark native Sarah "Sassy" Vaughan.  Hamilton will present this concert, which is part of the TD Bank James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival.

Like what you hear? Click here to let us know, and bookmark WBGO.ORG/SASSY for all the latest festival updates.

hamiltonchurch1

Sarah Vaughan Finalist Lydia Harrell With Rhonda Hamilton

Singer Lydia Harrell talks with WBGO's Rhonda Hamilton about her participation in the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, and her album with the LovelySinger band, The Way.

Harrell is one of five finalists who perform November 10 at 3 p.m. at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center's Victoria Theater for this year's "Sassy" Award, named for jazz singer and Newark native Sarah "Sassy" Vaughan.  Hamilton will present this concert, which is part of the TD Bank James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival.

Like what you hear? Click here to let us know, and bookmark WBGO.ORG/SASSY for all the latest festival updates.

SVVCharrellhamilton1

Sarah Vaughan Finalist Camille Thurman With Rhonda Hamilton

Singer and saxophonist Camille Thurman talks with WBGO's Rhonda Hamilton about her participation in the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, and her album Spirit Child.

Thurman is one of five finalists who perform November 10 at 3 p.m. at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center's Victoria Theater for this year's "Sassy" Award, named for jazz singer and Newark native Sarah "Sassy" Vaughan.  Hamilton will present this concert, which is part of the TD Bank James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival.

Like what you hear? Click here to let us know, and bookmark WBGO.ORG/SASSY for all the latest festival updates.

camille1

Meet 2013 Sarah Vaughan Vocal Rising Star Kate Davis

WBGO congratulates Kate Davis, the 2013 "Rising Star" in the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition (SVVC):  Click here or on the image below to hear her sing.

Kate was chosen from hundreds of singers from around the world for the award. She will perform, along with the five finalists in this year's competition, on November 10 at 3 p.m. at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center's Victoria Theater for judges Al Jarreau, Janis Siegel, and Gretchen Parlato, WBGO music director Gary Walker and JAZZ ROOTS producer Larry Rosen.

Kate is originally from Portland, Oregon, where she received national recognition in high school for bass and singing through the National YoungArts Program. She is a recipient of four Downbeat Magazine Student Music Awards, a double invitee to the Brubeck Summer Jazz Colony, and bassist in the Grammy Jazz Ensemble. In 2009, she was selected as a Presidential Scholar of the Arts.  ASCAP selected Kate to attend the prestigious 2012 ASCAP Foundation Paul Cunningham writing workshop, where she was the recipient of the Robert Allen award for her original song, “Movie.”

Kate also performed live in WBGO's Studio B back in November of 2010, when she visited the station with the Manhattan School of Music Quintet, along with pianist Christian Sands, Ben Benack on trumpet,
Mike Ruby on tenor saxophone and Jake Goldbas on drums. To hear audio from that performance, click here:

WBGO will interview Kate on-air before the competition.

Like what you hear? Click here to let us know, and bookmark WBGO.ORG/SASSY for all the latest festival updates.

Congratulations, Kate, and see you in November!

06KateDavis

Meet 2013 Sarah Vaughan Vocal Finalist Camille Thurman

WBGO congratulates Camille Thurman, one of five finalists in the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition (SVVC):  Click here or on the image below to hear her sing.

Along with four other finalists, Camille was chosen from hundreds of singers from around the world to perform November 10 at 3 p.m. at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center's Victoria Theater for this year's "Sassy" Award, named in honor of legendary jazz singer and Newark native Sarah Vaughan, and prizes of up to $5,000. She will sing for judges Al Jarreau, Janis Siegel, and Gretchen Parlato, WBGO music director Gary Walker and JAZZ ROOTS producer Larry Rosen.

Camille is a saxophonist, flutist, vocalist, composer and educator. She has performed with jazz and R&B greats such as Dr. Billy Taylor, Chaka Khan, Benny Golson, George Coleman, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Terri Lyne Carrington, Stephanie Mills, Russell Malone, Nicholas Payton, George Benson, Yolanda Adams, Bebe Winans, Lew Tabackin, Alicia Keys, India Arie, Dave Valentine, Anthony Hamilton, Eric Benet, Brandy, Missy Elliot and others. Camille leads her own quartet, which has performed at The Kennedy Center, the International Women in Jazz Festival, the Super Jazz Ashdod Israel Festival, The Jazz Gallery and other jazz venues around the world.

WBGO will interview Camille on-air before the competition.

Like what you hear? Click here to let us know, and bookmark WBGO.ORG/SASSY for all the latest festival updates.

Congratulations, Camille, and see you in November!

03CamilleThurman

Meet 2013 Sarah Vaughan Vocal Finalist Lydia Harrell

WBGO congratulates Lydia Harrell, one of five finalists in the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition (SVVC):  Click here or on the image below to hear her sing.

Along with four other finalists, Lydia was chosen from hundreds of singers from around the world to perform November 10 at 3 p.m. at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center's Victoria Theater for this year's "Sassy" Award, named in honor of legendary jazz singer and Newark native Sarah Vaughan, and prizes of up to $5,000. She will sing for judges Al Jarreau, Janis Siegel, and Gretchen Parlato, WBGO music director Gary Walker and JAZZ ROOTS producer Larry Rosen.

Lydia, who is also known as "The Lovely Singer," has performed with the Boston Pops and sang the National Anthem for the Boston Celtics. Consistently singing in more than 150 shows a year, this Bostonian sings in all different styles and settings. In addition to her own bands, Lovely Singer and Platinum, Lydia provides back-up vocals for the Steely Dan tribute band No Static. In 2011, she was selected over 200 talented singers by Sony Music Latin to provide lead vocals for the Bob Marley tribute album, “One Love.” In 2012, she released her EP “The Way.”

WBGO will interview Lydia on-air before the competition.

Like what you hear? Click here to let us know, and bookmark WBGO.ORG/SASSY for all the latest festival updates.

Congratulations, Lydia, and see you in November!

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