Sarah Vaughan and Her Trio - At Mister Kelly's (1958), 5/10

A decent band in a live setting fronted by the clearly talented and quite individual Sarah Vaughan. Her voice has a unique quality that you will either find eternally charming or stuffy. Here I find it to be both, at times, and despite her grace the album has a mix of good and bad. This is exacerbated by a questionable selection of songs. The intimate recording has a similar quality in that it accentuates some great performances and detracts from others because of a mismatch in approach. Even warm, mellow ballads can be tiring after repetition. There is enough change that the album never truly becomes poor, but it never rises above normalcy either, especially when a strong song like “Just One of Those Things” falls flat apart from a forced passion in the second half; it should clearly be one of the best but is not. Although it is appropriate they are not the center of attention, the band finally has a chance to shine after six tracks on “Honeysuckle Rose”. Then just after this refreshing spritz of energy, a bizarre song choice in “Just a Gigolo” saps the energy back out of the narrative. Luckily “How High the Moon” at least saves the tone before closing despite some odd comings and goings. Nice enough but Vaughan has far better performances and vastly more potential than these songs allow her.