Dinah Washington

Evil Gal

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If you want a more complete, collector-oriented retrospective of Dinah Washington's early- to mid-'50s recordings, volumes three and four of the series The Complete Dinah Washington on Mercury (each of which are three-CD sets) are far more comprehensive than this 22-track compilation of 1953-1955 sides. If you want a less expensive and briefer overview of her material from this era, however, this is good enough, even if the liner notes are skimpy. The songs run the gamut from bona fide R&B (especially on the 1953-1954 cuts with Jackie Davis on organ) to straight jazz ballads and swing numbers. Plenty of major jazz musicians participate at one point or another, including drummers Jimmy Cobb, Max Roach, and Ed Thigpen; trumpeter Clark Terry; tenor saxophonists Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Harold Land; pianist Wynton Kelly; and (as arranger) a young Quincy Jones. While not all of the songs are equally durable ("TV Is the Thing," for instance, is an inoffensively dated novelty), Washington's vocal performances are always fine, and the accompaniments and arrangements accomplished and sympathetic. A lot of ground is covered here, from Latin-tinged bluesy R&B ("Fat Daddy") and standards (a live version of "I've Got You Under My Skin") to numbers with playful, comic undertones ("My Man's an Undertaker" and "One Arabian Night").

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