Dinah Washington ruled the R&B charts in the late '40's and '50's, becoming a crossover success as well with hits like "What A Difference A Day Makes". This commercial success may lead people to underestimate her jazz chops. But all the while she was recording straight ahead albums with the cream of the era's jazz crop.
The former Ruth Jones began her professional career with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra before being signed as a solo artist. The musical mother of Nancy Wilson, Washington has exerted a tremendous influence on jazz, blues and R&B vocalists considering her untimely death at the age of thirty-nine. Supremely versatile, she melded discrete vocal styles into a unique and personal sound, her gospel heritage providing the muscle under her relaxed phrasing and crystal clear enunciation.
This Verve reissue spotlights Miss D supported by a host of high caliber instrumentalists. The cuts were recorded in two sessions a year apart with a dozen musicians, notably Clark Terry, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Junior Mance, and Ed Thigpen.
The sidemen swing it hard with Dinah's lusty alto soaring over them in complete control. Their combined musicianship elevates standards like "Pennies From Heaven" and "Our Love Is Here To Stay". The first track, "Blue Skies" begins with a slow piano/voice duet before launching into a swinging big band arrangement. "Bye Bye Blues" comes racing out of the chute with a wailing trumpet solo by Terry.
Like many remastered reissues, this disc has a stark acoustic quality that no amount of digital wizardry can inflate. But that's a minor point considering the wealth of musicianship it showcases. Every young singer should spend time studying Dinah Washington. Her style is at once dramatic and sensible, coy and crying. Listening to the solid maturity she evokes on After Hours With Miss D, one can only wonder what she would have given us with a few more years on the planet.
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