Sarah Vaughan - 1970s, Late career

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Rebirth in the 1970s

Vaughan met Marshall Fisher after a 1970 performance at a casino in Las Vegas and Fisher soon fell into the familiar dual role as Vaughan's lover and manager. Fisher was another man of uncertain background with no musical or entertainment business experience but, unlike some of her earlier associates, he was a genuine fan devoted to furthering her career.

The seventies also heralded a rebirth in Vaughan's recording activity. In 1971, Bob Shad, who had worked with her as producer at Mercury Records, asked her to record for his new record label, Mainstream Records. Basie veteran Ernie Wilkins arranged and conducted her first Mainstream album, A Time in My Life in November 1971. In April 1972, Vaughan recorded a collection of ballads written, arranged and conducted by Michel Legrand. Arrangers Legrand, Peter Matz, Jack Elliott and Allyn Ferguson teamed up for Vaughan's third Mainstream album, Feelin' Good. Vaughan also recorded Live in Japan, a live album in Tokyo with her trio in September 1973.

During her sessions with Legrand, Bob Shad presented "Send in the Clowns", a Stephen Sondheim song from the Broadway musical A Little Night Music, to Vaughan for consideration. The song would become her signature, replacing the chestnut "Tenderly" that had been with her from the beginning of her solo career.

Unfortunately, Vaughan's relationship with Mainstream soured in 1974, allegedly in a conflict precipitated by Fisher over an album cover photograph and/or unpaid royalties[citation needed]. This left Vaughan again without a recording contract for three years.

In December 1974, Vaughan played a private concert for the United States president, Gerald Ford, and French president, Giscard d'Estaing, during their summit on Martinique.

Also in 1974, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas asked Vaughan to participate in an all-Gershwin show he was planning for a guest appearance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. The arrangements were by Marty Paich and the orchestra would be augmented by established jazz artists Dave Grusin on piano, Ray Brown on double bass, drummer Shelly Manne and saxophonists Bill Perkins and Pete Christlieb. The concert was a success and Thomas and Vaughan repeated the performance with Thomas' home orchestra in Buffalo, New York, followed by appearances in 1975 and 1976 with symphony orchestras around the country. These performances fulfilled a long-held interest by Vaughan in working with symphonies and she made orchestra performances without Thomas for the remainder of the decade.

In 1977, Vaughan terminated her personal and professional relationship with Marshall Fisher. Although Fisher is occasionally referenced as Vaughan's third husband, they were never legally married. Vaughan began a relationship with Waymond Reed, a trumpet player 16 years her junior who was playing with the Count Basie band. Reed joined her working trio as a musical director and trumpet player and became her third husband in 1978.

In 1977, Tom Guy, a young filmmaker and public TV producer, followed Vaughan around on tour, interviewing numerous artists speaking about her and capturing both concert and behind-the-scenes footage. The resulting sixteen hours of footage was pared down into an hour-and-a-half documentary, Listen to the Sun, that aired on September 21, 1978, on New Jersey Public Television, but was never commercially released.

In 1977, Norman Granz, who was also Ella Fitzgerald's manager, signed Vaughan to his Pablo Records label. Vaughan had not had a recording contract for three years, although she had recorded a 1977 album of Beatles songs with contemporary pop arrangements for Atlantic Records that was eventually released in 1981. Vaughan's first Pablo release was I Love Brazil!, recorded with an all-star cast of Brazilian musicians in Rio de Janeiro in the fall of 1977. It garnered a Grammy nomination.

1977 also saw the release of the Godley & Creme album "Consequences", on which Vaughan sang one of the few tracks to achieve popularity outside of the album: "Lost Weekend".

The Pablo contract resulted in a total of seven albums: a second and equally wondrous Brazilian record, "Copacabana", again recorded in Rio (1979), How Long Has This Been Going On? (1978) with a quartet that included pianist Oscar Peterson, guitarist Joe Pass, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Louis Bellson; two Duke Ellington Songbook albums (1979); Send in the Clowns (1981) with the Count Basie orchestra playing arrangements primarily by Sammy Nestico; and Crazy and Mixed Up (1982), another quartet album featuring Sir Roland Hanna, piano, Joe Pass, guitar, Andy Simpkins, bass, and Harold Jones, drums.

Vaughan and Waymond Reed divorced in 1981.

Late career

Vaughan remained quite active as a performer during the 1980s and began receiving awards recognizing her contribution to American music and status as an important elder stateswoman of jazz. In the summer of 1980, Vaughan received a plaque on 52nd Street outside the CBS Building (Black Rock) commemorating the jazz clubs she had once frequented on "Swing Street" and which had long since been demolished and replaced with office buildings.

A performance of her symphonic Gershwin program with the New Jersey Symphony in 1980 was broadcast on PBS and won her an Emmy Award in 1981 for "Individual Achievement – Special Class". She was reunited with Michael Tilson Thomas for slightly modified version of the Gershwin program with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the CBS Records recording, Gershwin Live! won Vaughan the Grammy award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Female. In 1985, Vaughan received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1988, Vaughan was inducted into the American Jazz Hall of Fame.

After the conclusion of her Pablo contract in 1982, Vaughan did only a limited amount of studio recording. She made a guest appearance in 1984 on Barry Manilow's 2:00 AM Paradise Cafe, an album of original pastiche compositions that featured a number of established jazz artists. In 1984, Vaughan participated in one of the more unusual projects of her career, The Planet is Alive, Let It Live a symphonic piece composed by Tito Fontana and Sante Palumbo on Italian translations of Polish poems by Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II. The recording was made in Germany with an English translation by writer Gene Lees and was released by Lees on his own private label after the recording was turned down by the major labels. In 1986, Vaughan sang two songs, "Happy Talk" and "Bali Ha'i", in the role of Bloody Mary on an otherwise stiff studio recording by opera stars Kiri Te Kanawa and José Carreras of the score of the Broadway musical South Pacific, while sitting on the studio floor.

Vaughan's final complete album was Brazilian Romance, produced and composed by Sérgio Mendes and recorded primarily in the early part of 1987 in New York and Detroit. In 1988, Vaughan contributed vocals to an album of Christmas carols recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with the Utah Symphony Orchestra and sold in Hallmark Cards stores. In 1989, Quincy Jones' album Back on the Block featured Vaughan in a brief scatting duet with Ella Fitzgerald. This was Vaughan's final studio recording and, fittingly, it was Vaughan's only formal studio recording with Fitzgerald in a career that had begun 46 years earlier opening for Fitzgerald at the Apollo.

Vaughan is featured in a number of video recordings from the 1980s. Sarah Vaughan Live from Monterey was taped in 1983 or 1984 and featured her working trio with guest soloists. Sass and Brass was taped in 1986 in New Orleans and also features her working trio with guest soloists, including Dizzy Gillespie and Maynard Ferguson. Sarah Vaughan: The Divine One was featured in the American Masters series on PBS. Also in 1986, on Independence Day in a program nationally-televised on PBS she performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich, in a medley of songs composed by George Gershwin[8]

She was given the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement, UCLA Spring Sing.[9]