Veryl Oakland’s “Jazz in Available Light” — photos (and stories) of Sarah Vaughan and Betty Carter

November 29th, 2021

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…..Jazz in Available Light, Illuminating the Jazz Greats from the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s is one of the most impressive jazz photo books to be published in a long time. Featuring the brilliant photography of Veryl Oakland — much of which has never been published — it is also loaded with his often remarkable and always entertaining stories of his experience with his subjects.

…..With the gracious consent of Mr. Oakland — an active photojournalist who devoted nearly thirty years in search of the great jazz musicians — Jerry Jazz Musician regularly publishes a series of posts featuring excerpts of the photography and stories/captions found in this important book.

In this edition, Mr. Oakland’s photographs and stories feature the singers Sarah Vaughan and Betty Carter

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All photographs copyright Veryl Oakland. All text excerpted from Jazz in Available Light, Illuminating the Jazz Greats from the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s

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You can read Mr. Oakland’s introduction to this series by clicking here

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A Night to Remember

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© Veryl Oakland

Sarah Vaughan

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Sarah Vaughan 

Monterey, California

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…..“The Divine One” knew she had nailed it. On that September night in 1971, the vocalist simply had the festival-goers in the palms of her hands. It was an absolute lovefest.

…..Sarah Vaughan possessed what other singers could only envision in their dreams. She had the most impressive, extraordinary vocal range covering all three types of voices – soprano, mezzo-soprano, and contralto – along with such an alluringly rich tone and vibrato. And because she was an accomplished pianist and improviser blessed with horn-like phrasing abilities, all of the top musicians who backed her during performances regarded her as an instant equal.

…..Or, as Miles Davis wrote in his autobiography, “Sarah sounding like Bird and Diz and them two playing everything! I mean they would look at Sarah like she was just another horn. You know what I mean?”

…..She was the complete package.

…..I marveled as Sarah brought down the Monterey house with her final number, “Tenderly,” and immediately headed backstage. I wanted to see the buzz and excitement she had most certainly caused among all of her close friends and well-wishers waiting in the wings, and perhaps even catch a meaningful shot.

…..But as I made my way around in the background, I noticed Sarah sitting alone. She was waiting near the curtains for an encore appearance, just off-stage behind the props. When I walked by, I told her, “You just knocked them out. Everybody’s still standing.”

…..She pulled me over, placed my hand over her heart and asked, “Is it still beating?”

…..She was so happy.

…..Over her career, there was a reason why Sarah Vaughan appeared at the Monterey Jazz Festival a total of nine times. She was absolutely adored by her fellow musicians, her countless fans, and all the staff. On this glorious night, she owned them all, big time.

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© Veryl Oakland

Sarah Vaughan

 

Sarah Lois Vaughan – singer

Born: March 27, 1924

Died: April 30, 1990

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Watch Sarah Vaughan perform “Tenderly” during the 1977 Grammy Awards telecast

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Totally in Charge

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© Veryl Oakland

Betty Carter

 

Betty Carter

Berkeley, California

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…..She was not just some average singer the audience saw as window dressing – or “eye candy” – for another big band.

…..Betty Carter was one of the select, real jazz vocalists. As an artist, she was true bop; so much so that in her early days with Lionel Hampton’s Orchestra, the band members all knew her as “Betty Bebop.” Just like so many of jazz’s fine instrumental soloists, her vocal ability to improvise was legendary. She was jazz at the very core.

…..By the 1970s, Betty flourished in her role as leader, always backed by a trio of up-and-coming pianists, bassists, and drummers. Inevitably, she would find them after attending jazz education conferences, visiting institutions such as the Berklee College of Music, and listening to new talent in clubs. She was always searching, listening for the solos, the rhythm, the creativity that each exhibited.

…..They became her young lions, each personally judged, then groomed, rehearsed, and finally showcased to her devoted fans. If you were fortunate enough to be welcomed as a member of Betty Carter’s Proving Ground, you were not onstage props whose job was to simply keep time.

…..Working for Betty Carter was like going 12 rounds, but with her in your corner. She was pushing, prodding, always looking to get the most out of you. Night in and night out, you were there to express your own musical identity to the best of your ability.

…..Knowing this, I was on the lookout for just the right moment to catch this delicate interaction as it unfolded. It was during an afternoon performance at the Greek Theatre during the 1979 Berkeley Jazz Festival that I recognized the possibility. Hidden from the audience after squeezing into a completely cramped spot amongst the onstage equipment and speakers, I soon had my opportunity.

…..Betty Carter was feeling the moment on a dazzling, up-tempo tune. 

…..After completing her early choruses and then beaming from the roar of the crowd, she was now focused on her soloist, Curtis Lundy. Standing directly in front of him, Betty implored, induced, and inspired her young bassist to reach the highest level of performance.

…..The interaction between teacher and student was powerful, and for me that day, even more moving than the music itself.

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© Veryl Oakland

Betty Carter

 

Betty Carter (Lillie Mae Jones) – singer

Born: May 16, 1930

Died: September 26, 1998

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Watch a 1985 film of Betty Carter singing “My Favorite Things” 

 

 

 

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Click here to read the edition featuring Stan Getz, Sun Ra and Carla Bley

Click here to read the edition featuring Art Pepper, Pat Martino and Joe Williams

Click here to read the edition featuring Yusef Lateef and Chet Baker

Click here to read the edition featuring Mal Waldron, Jackie McLean and Joe Henderson

Click here to read the edition featuring violinists Joe Venuti, Stephane Grappelli, Jean-Luc Ponty, Zbigniew Seifert, and Leroy Jenkins

Click here to read the edition featuring Frank Morgan, Charles Lloyd/Michel Petrucciani and Emily Remler

Click here to read the edition featuring Dexter Gordon, Art Farmer and Johnny Griffin

Click here to read the edition featuring Thelonious Monk, Paul Bley and Cecil Taylor

Click here to read the edition featuring drummers Jo Jones, Art Blakey and Elvin Jones

Click here to read the edition featuring drummers Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Tony Williams and Shelly Manne

Click here to read the edition featuring Monk Montgomery and the jazz musicians of Las Vegas

Click here to read the edition featuring Sarah Vaughan and Better Carter

Click here to read the edition featuring Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones and Toots Thielemans

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All photographs copyright Veryl Oakland. All text and photographs excerpted with author’s permission from Jazz in Available Light, Illuminating the Jazz Greats from the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s

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You can read Mr. Oakland’s introduction to this series by clicking here

Visit his web page and Instagram

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