Dinah Washington cut a lot of sides in two decades of recording. However, her straight jazz sessions were few and far between because of the mass popular and commercial appeal that she had as a pop singer. Still, the versatile Dinah thrived in just about any setting and the one provided here in 1955 by the gifted Chicago producer Bob Shad showcases her intimate side to perfection.
Since Dinah Washington just about invented gospel-based soulful singing, it's thrilling to hear her at the peak of her powers backed by a small group that includes trumpeter Clark Terry and pianist Wynton Kelly. The session is also graced by Quincy Jones' tidy arrangements. With such expert support, the singer's powerful phrasing, precise diction, and pitch-perfect intonation draw as much emotion and meaning possible out of her chosen material, including Billie-associated tunes like "Easy Living" and "My Old Flame." Dinah Washington was first and foremost a musician--not a showboat. And part of her genius was that she could make her formidable presence actually underscore her own vulnerability, as in the lilting "Blue Gardenia" and blues-tinged "You Don't Know What Love Is."