Dinah Washington

Live at Birdland 1962

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Dinah Washington's career can easily be divided into two periods. Prior to 1959, she was one of jazz's great individualists, able to sing anything from standards to blues, R&B, pop, and spirituals, and yet retain her own musical personality, always uplifting the material. After she had a surprise pop hit in 1959 with "What a Difference a Day Made," her recording career declined artistically, as she was continually backed by string sections on pop ballads in hopes of duplicating her commercial success. On some records before her accidental death in 1963, the Queen of the Blues almost sounded like a parody of herself. However, as this CD shows, Dinah Washington was much more interesting in person than on records during her last four years. She is backed on most of the selections by her regular trio of the period (pianist Joe Zawinul, a year before he joined Cannonball Adderley; bassist Jimmy Rowser, and drummer Al Jones); the last couple numbers find her joined by an organ combo. Washington shows that she was still in prime form this late in her career. Five of the 11 selections (all taken from radio broadcasts that originated from Birdland) are actually three-song medleys. Fortunately, her rhythm section was quite alert, for Washington continually ties together ideas from different songs and switches tunes in odd places to humorous effect. She somehow combines "What a Difference a Day Made" with "I Thought About You" and "Makin' Whoopee"; and another unlikely medley consists of "A Foggy Day," "Unforgettable," and "Baby Won't You Please Come Home." Since there are relatively few examples of Dinah Washington singing live this late in her career, and she still sounds so saucy here, this CD is easily recommended.

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