What makes an artist a leading light? Are you born with it? Or do you have to work at obtaining it? There’s no one simple answer to this question. Michelangelo knew what a block of stone wanted to be. There are people who just know what they are born to do. And still others work endlessly to obtain the status they are aiming. Sarah Vaughan’s light first shown inside of the Zion Baptist Church in Newark, NJ where she sang and played the organ as a child in the choir. From there she illuminated audiences both in the United States and Europe with her beautifully rich, controlled tone and vibrato, which made her one of the greatest vocalists of her time.
Many have said that Vaughan was a perfect candidate for the grand opera. But, her response to that was “Do you mean jazz isn’t legit?” In fact, Sarah got her training from some of the greatest jazz musicians of her time: Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Art Blakey, Miles Davis, just to name a few. Ironically, these same musicians were thought to not care too much for singers. She was an exception.
Sarah Vaughan passed away from lung cancer in 1990 leaving behind a radiant repertoire of songs. And now, three of these songs have been re-spirited by Hungarian singer Delilah, who currently lives in Toronto. Her new EP includes three Sarah Vaughan pieces “September in the Rain,” “Just Friends,” and “What Ever Lola Wants.” And, while not a carbon copy of the great Sarah Vaughan—no one can ever be—Delilah has shined an important light back onto the sophistication and innocence that Sarah Vaughan brought to the forefront.
Delilah’s interpretation of “September in the Rain” is less filled with melancholy. Her notes and musical arrangements register as more up-tempo, unlike Vaughan’s delivery of longer held notes that capture the love loss message of the ballad. Delilah’s loss sounds like she will soon get over it and move onto the next. This is not to say the track has missed the note; it’s just a different note that Delilah strikes.
The next track “Just Friends” has Delilah reminding us of an era where romantic love was the focus of life whether one is looking for it or waiting for it. But, here again, in the 21st Century, Delilah’s sweet voice does not convince us that romantic love is the highest point of one’s life. “Whatever Lola Wants” is performed by Delilah with the same alluring, sultry, and hypnotic mood of Sarah Vaughan. This track is Delilah’s shining moment and the most apropos to our era. Perhaps we don’t live in the same conditions that spawned the naiveté of romantic songs. These types of romantic songs expected of us to commit, not take what we think belongs to us.
Delilah’s voice is delicate and has a commercial sensibility that will shine some light on her craft. Her ode to Sarah Vaughan is very respectful, and she does a good job of delivering the songs; she just needs to find her own block of stone.
You can listen to Delilah’s Sarah+1: A Tribute To Sarah Vaughan on YouTube.