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I purchased After Hours, one of the four freshly minted CDs in the Complete Columbia Albums box, many years ago, on vinyl. Shouldn’t having the original — the cover of which is minutely replicated, as are all the albums in this collection — continue to signify an erudite, retro sensibility? Not necessarily, if you’re in the “the-more-Sarah-Vaughan-the-better” camp. Her idiosyncratic integration of swing, jazz, and blues tones and phrasing infused arrangements that would have been predictably static for many '40s–'50s–era vocalists; effectively erasing the lines between blues/jazz/pop. Indeed, Vaughan’s intuitive choices and shiver-inducing tones provided one of the carrots that pulled me further into jazz.

This set jumps from Vaughan’s 1949–'52 recordings to her bossa nova outing with Milton Nascimento (Brazilian Romance) and a live, 1982 exploration of Gershwin with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Whether or not Vaughan is, for anyone, “easy listening,” her massaging of every note and spontaneously ingenious phrasing provide invaluable vocal coaching. Her artistry, especially on this offering’s standout album, In Hi-Fi, yielded stunning, often definitive versions of standards, including “East of the Sun,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”

Completists should be sated by the inclusion of numerous alternate takes.

  • Album: The Complete Columbia Albums Collection
  • Artist: Sarah Vaughan
  • Label: Sony/Legacy
  • Songs: four discs worth!
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