In 1942, vocalist Sarah Vaughan, the daughter of a carpenter and a laundress who sang in church choirs, entered and won an amateur night competition at the Apollo Theater with her rendition of “Body and Soul.” The prize was $10 and a weeklong engagement at the Apollo. Today, her voice is known as one of the best of the 20th century, and she ranks in the very top echelon of female jazz singers with Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.
The Sarah Vaughan Vocal Competition, the only jazz vocal competition of its kind for women, honors the talent of its namesake by giving one outstanding performer a platform to embark on a career in the music business. This year’s edition saw Philadelphia-based vocalist Laurin Talese win first prize at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, New Jersey on November 18.
Talese wowed the panel of judges – Stefon Harris, Nnenna Freelon, Sheila E. Anderson, Mary Ann Topper, and Jon Faddis – with her renditions of “The Very Thought of You,” “Something Happens to Me” and “Save Your Love For Me.” “Winning the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition was a milestone achievement for me,” she said. “It’s full circle for me to even be a finalist in this prestigious competition named for her.”
The singer has been making a name for herself these past years. She has been touring and performing extensively since releasing her debut album, 2016’s Gorgeous Chaos, which was co-produced by Grammy-winning drummer-producer Ulysses Owens Jr. and music director Adam Blackstone. She has also recorded with such celebrated artists as Robert Glasper, Bilal and Gregory Porter, and shared the stage with The Cleveland Orchestra and the Mozarteum of Salzburg, Austria, among others.
Talese received a $5,000 cash prize as well as a performance slot at the 2019 Newport Jazz Festival, which is set to take place on August 2-4. Along with her, finalists this year included second place winner Oleg Akkuratov, third place winner Toscha Comeaux, Gabrielle Cavassa and Olivia Chindamo.
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