A.B. SPELLMAN, National Endowment for the Arts: Murray Horwitz, I once heard Gunther Schuller speak at a Doubleday lecture, during which he said that Sarah Vaughan was the greatest singer of the 20th century.
MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: And who am I to gainsay Pulitzer Prize winner and composer Gunther Schuller. I tell you what, it doesn't get any better in jazz vocals than Sarah Vaughan. Its in evidence on this CD, After Hours. Everything, A.B., is almost perfect. Her diction, her pitch, the vocal quality. She swings. Every element that you want in a jazz singer — she's inventive — they're all here.
SPELLMAN: This recording was made in 1961, somewhere in the middle of Sarah Vaughan's career. And in it, she seems to be sticking more to the delivery of the song — the lyrics, the interpretations of the lyrics — as well as the beauty of the melody.
HORWITZ: You're right. All that riffing that we associate with Sarah Vaughan — those big swoops and scoops and quavers of tone — sort of took on a life of their own in the 1970s and '80s. But here in 1961, they're always musical, and they're always apt, and they give you a sense of love, really. It's a very romantic album.
SPELLMAN: The reason why I've chosen this CD is that she's almost naked on this CD. All she has is a bass and a guitar. Now, mind you, it's the bass of George Duvivier, who is one of the most experienced and most solid of all jazz bassists. Mundell Lowe is the guitarist, and he is an equally fine instrumentalist. But most singers need drums. They need an orchestra. Here, she allows herself as you say, to be completely exposed. We're the much richer for it, because there is just no sound like the sound of the voice of Sarah Vaughan.
SPELLMAN: And, so for NPR Basic Jazz Record Library, we're recommending Sarah Vaughan's After Hours. It's on the Roulette Records label. For NPRJazz, I'm A.B. Spellman.
HORWITZ: And, I'm Murray Horwitz.