Great Women in Music is a New York City-based ongoing celebration of the many contributions women have made to music and the world. Since 2001, GWIM has annually presented a month-long festival in October.
Stellar show dates have featured such legendary artists as Phoebe Snow, Shirley Caesar, Gloria Lynne, Floetry, Ann Hampton Callaway, Regina Carter and Melba Moore among others. Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, GWIM paid tribute to the “Divine One,” Sarah Vaughan. In 1942, singing “Body and Soul,” Vaughan won the Apollo Theater Armature Night. First prize was a week’s performance at the legendary theater, where she was the opening act for Ella Fitzgerald.
In 1943, she became a member of the Earl Hines’ Band as a pianist, where she worked with crooner Billy Eckstine, who was Hines’ featured singer at the time. When Eckstine left the band to form his own orchestra, he invited Vaughn to come along. She accepted his invitation, and one year later, in 1944, she ventured out on her own. The rest, as they say, is history.
It has been 25 years since the passing of one of the unique voices of our time, but her legacy will continue through her music and her U.S. Postal Service Forever Stamp. In 2015, the Postal Service announced that the Grammy-winning jazz singer would be the latest addition to the agency’s Music Icon Series. March 2016 saw an unveiling of Vaughan’s well-deserved tribute stamp in Newark, N.J., her hometown.
GWIM Founder and Executive Producer Roz Nixon said, “We are now in our 16th season and we can’t think of any better way to make it ‘Sweet’ than by honoring one the finest artist of the 20th century.” Last Wednesday the Harlem celebration of Vaughan and her stamp began at Harlem Besame Restaurant, a delightful uptown alfresco eatery that is dedicated to the sound of jazz. Besame’s overwhelmingly delicious menu is filled with Latin, soul and Jamaican flavor. State Sen. Bill Perkins, along with United States Postal Supervising Manager Tabitha A. Gales, presided over the official GWIM Harlem presentation. Supervisor of Customer Services Tawana Huston also participated in the auspicious salute. Latrayer Sumter-Moreau, retail manager NY, worked with GWIM to ensure a successful event.
It was called a “fabulous evening” by author Belinda James-Trotter and composer/arranger Norman Connors and featured Louise Murray from the musical “SS Nirvana,” who portrays Vaughan. The evening was hosted by singers Terri Davis and Rob Fulton. They were joined by a talented list that included Emilie Surtees, John Felder, Lil Phillips, Abiodun Oyewole (of the last poets) and Evelyn Horne. The gathering also heard from accomplished musicians who stopped by to play the songs that made Vaughan famous.
Miss Jessie’s Hair Care and Black Opal Cosmetics and Skin Care supplied gift bags to all of the performers. Over the years GWIM has reigned supreme as a presenter of memorable dates and this season will be no exception with this sassy Sarah Vaughan night that won’t soon be forgotten.