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Jazz - Released January 1, 1999 | Verve

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Gifted with a strong, beautiful voice and very precise phrasing, Dinah Washington translated Bessie Smith's irrepressible spirit and flair even better than Billie Holiday, Smith's most famous devotee. For her tribute album, Washington avoided Smith's best-known songs ("'Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do," "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," "Baby Won't You Please Come Home"). Instead, she wisely concentrated on the more defiant standards from "The Empress of the Blues," including "Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair," "Jailhouse Blues," and "You've Been a Good Ole Wagon." Washington sounds simply glorious, focused on alternating Smith's phrasing to emphasize her own gospel roots. The accompaniment, by Eddie Chamblee and His Orchestra, emphasizes the vaudeville and Dixieland sound of early-century blues, heavy on the slide trombone, growling trumpet, and skeletal, rickety percussion. Reissued several times (occasionally under the title The Bessie Smith Songbook), Dinah Washington Sings Bessie Smith charts a perfect balance between tribute and genuine artistic statement. A Verve master edition reissue added alternate takes of "Trombone Butter" and "Careless Love," plus three songs taken from a Newport performance later in 1958. © John Bush /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2004 | Verve Reissues

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Any self-respecting jazz musician would leap at the chance to record an afterhours session with Dinah Washington. One of the finest musician's singers, Washington demanded respect from her band and paid in return by giving her fellow players plenty of room for solos, on record or in concert. Her Dinah Jams LP from 1954 isn't just one of the finest jazz-meets-vocals dates, it's one of the best jam sessions ever released. One year earlier, she began recording the songs heard on After Hours With Miss D, a date sparked (as the original liner notes explained) by her enjoyment of the time after a standard recording date, those late hours when she could sing what she wanted, stretch out and treasure her notes while her musicians relaxed the rhythm. (The record also helped feed the appetite of many record-buyers, who would only after the fact hear tales of unmissable sessions at neglected clubs.) Listeners expecting a record of narcoleptic torch songs, however, may well be shocked by the dynamic range of this date, comprising ebullient stormers as well as slow blues. (Just because the band relaxes the rhythm certainly doesn't mean they have to slow it down.) The results of three sessions recorded one year apart, After Hours With Miss D featured a hand-picked band -- including Clark Terry on trumpet and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis or Paul Quinichette on tenor, plus Washington's rock-solid rhythm section of bassist Keter Betts, drummer Ed Thigpen, and usually pianist Junior Mance (who made his debut with Dinah on the first of these dates). The first two selections are the best, the opener "Blue Skies" a studied introduction for all the principals (each of them heard in extended form on the eight-minute track), and the second a runaway train with Clark Terry's hyper-inflated trumpet as the conductor and the rest of the band carried along for the ride. Organist Jackie Davis leads the group into traditional afterhours territory, setting into a bluesy groove for "Am I Blue?" and "Pennies From Heaven." Washington meanwhile is at her interpretive best, whether tormented ("Love for Sale") or reflective ("A Foggy Day") or tranquil ("Pennies From Heaven"). Everyone gets to solo, as it should be, and the controlled environment makes this session a tighter display of finesse than the live-in-the-studio, completely frenetic Dinah Jams LP. © John Bush /TiVo
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Jazz - Released March 31, 1997 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Prior to her 1959 hit "What a Difference a Day Makes," nearly every Dinah Washington recording (no matter what the style) was of interest to jazz listeners. However, after her unexpected success on the pop charts, most of Washington's sessions for Mercury and Roulette during the last four years of her life were quite commercial, with string arrangements better suited to country singers and Washington nearly parodying herself with exaggerated gestures. Fortunately, this 1963 LP is an exception, a blues-oriented collection that features Washington returning to her roots, backed by a jazz-oriented big band (with occasional strings and background voices). Eddie Chamblee and Illinois Jacquet have some tenor solos, guitarist Billy Butler is heard from, and the trumpet soloist is probably Joe Newman. In general, this is a more successful date than Washington's earlier investigation of Bessie Smith material, since the backup band is more sympathetic and the talented singer is heard in prime form. Dinah Washington clearly had a real feeling for this bluesy material. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released February 19, 1959 | Verve Reissues

One of the more notorious albums in the history of vocal music, What a Diff'rence a Day Makes! is the lush session that bumped up Dinah Washington from the "Queen of the Blues" to a middle-of-the-road vocal wondress -- and subsequently disenfranchised quite a few jazz purists. Washington had been praised in the same breath as Holiday and Fitzgerald for more than a decade, but Mercury nevertheless decided to back her with mainstream arrangements (by Belford Hendricks), heavy strings, and wordless vocal choruses similar to the radio hits of the day. Apparently, the mainstream backings didn't faze Washington at all; she proves herself with a voice as individual and evocative as ever. To be honest, the arrangements are quite solid for what they're worth; though it's a bit jarring to hear Washington's voice wrapped in sweet strings, the effect works well more frequently than not. Most of the songs here are familiar standards ("I Remember You," "I Thought About You," "Cry Me a River," "Manhattan," "Time After Time"), but they've been transformed by Washington as though they'd never been sung before. The Top Ten title track is by no means the best song on the album, but its title proved prophetic for Washington's career. Though her vocal style hadn't changed at all, one day she was a respected blues singer; the next, according to most of the jazz cognoscenti, she had become a lowbrow pop singer. Thankfully, the evidence against Washington's "transformation" is provided right here. © John Bush /TiVo
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Jazz - Released June 19, 1955 | Verve Reissues

Recorded at the start of Dinah Washington's climb to fame, 1954's Dinah Jams was taped live in front of a studio audience in Los Angeles. While Washington is in top form throughout, effortlessly working her powerful, blues-based voice on both ballads and swingers, the cast of star soloists almost steals the show. In addition to drummer Max Roach, trumpeter Clifford Brown, and other members of Brown and Roach's band at the time -- tenor saxophonist Harold Land, pianist Richie Powell, and bassist George Morrow -- trumpeters Maynard Ferguson and Clark Terry, alto saxophonist Herb Geller, and pianist Junior Mance also contribute to the session. Along with extended jams like "Lover Come Back to Me," "You Go to My Head," and "I'll Remember April" -- all including a round of solos -- there are shorter ballad numbers such as "There Is No Greater Love" and "No More," the last of which features excellent muted, obbligato work by Brown. Other solo highlights include Land's fine tenor solo on "Darn That Dream" and Geller's alto statement on the disc's standout Washington vocal, "Crazy." And even though she's in the midst of these stellar soloists, Washington expertly works her supple voice throughout to remain the star attraction, even matching the insane, high-note solo blasts trumpeter Ferguson expectedly delivers. A fine disc. Newcomers, though, should start with more accessible and more vocal-centered Washington titles like The Swingin' Miss D or The Fats Waller Songbook, both of which feature top arrangements by Quincy Jones. © Stephen Cook /TiVo
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Jazz - Released October 1, 1957 | Verve Reissues

The 1957 LP Dinah Washington Sings Fats Waller appropriately brings together Waller's vivacious songs and Washington's demonstrative vocal talents. The jazz diva effortlessly handles Waller classics like "Keeping out of Mischief Now," "Just Squeeze Me," and "Ain't Mibehavin'," while turning in particularly emotive renditions of "'Tain't Noboby's Biz-Ness If I Do" (actually a Clarence Williams tune), and "Jitterbug Waltz" (this last cut featuring Washington's keen and signature blend of blues vocal power and streamlined diction). Adding nice variety to the already strong set, Washington's husband at the time, saxophonist Eddie Chamblee, joins the singer for playful duets on "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Everybody Loves My Baby" (ironically, the love sentiments of both songs were not to stick, as the couple called it quits after just a year of marriage). In addition to "Everybody Loves My Baby" and "'Tain't Noboby's Biz-Ness If I Do," Washington covers other songs associated with Waller, but not penned by him, including "Christopher Columbus" and the highlight of the set, "Somebody's Rocking My Dreamboat." Topped off with solidly swinging charts by Ernie Wilkins and fine backing by an all-star band, the date registers as one of Dinah Washington's best and most enjoyable records. [Reissued in the '90s by Verve as The Fats Waller Songbook.] © Stephen Cook /TiVo
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Jazz - Released November 4, 1997 | Verve Reissues

Abbey Lincoln compiled The Ultimate Dinah Washington, a 16-track selection of Washington's best-known songs that offers an excellent introduction to her Verve recordings. Although purists and collectors will have little use for this set, it suits the purposes of neophytes and curious listeners quite well. Among the highlights are "What a Diff'rence a Day Made," "Backwater Blues," "Cry Me a River," "I Wanna Be Loved," "Cold, Cold Heart," "Harbor Lights," "You Don't Know What Love Is," "I Won't Cry Anymore," "Unforgettable," and "The Bitter Earth." © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1962 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz - Released May 18, 1987 | Verve Reissues

Not quite as fine as Sarah Vaughan's Compact Jazz disc, this Verve roundup still nicely frames Dinah Washington's stay at the label with a fetching array of her best cuts from the '50s and early '60s. Taking in some of Washington's best-known pop songs ("What a Difference a Day Makes"), the disc touches on her excellent Fats Waller ("Keepin' out of Mischief Now") and Bessie Smith ("Backwater Blues") songbooks, while also including something from a fiery live date with Clifford Brown ("I've Got You Under My Skin"). And this is not to forget a handful of finely gauged readings of such perennials as "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "Easy Living," and "I Could Write a Book." Topped off with fine support by a bevy of top players, Compact Jazz: Dinah Washington makes for the ideal introductory disc. © Stephen Cook /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1988 | Verve Reissues

Of the seven three-CD sets in Mercury's Complete series of Dinah Washington recordings, this is the most jazz-oriented one. The versatile singer participates in a very memorable jam session with an all-star group (featuring Clifford Brown, Maynard Ferguson, and Clark Terry on trumpets), meets up with Terry and tenor saxophonist Eddie Lockjaw Davis on another spontaneous date (highlighted by up-tempo romps on "Bye Bye Blues" and "Blue Skies"), and has several classic collaborations with the warm Lester Young-ish tenor of Paul Quinichette. There are a few commercial sides with studio orchestras that are included (since they took place during the same period) but those are in the great minority on this essential volume. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1989 | Verve Reissues

Up until 1959, Dinah Washington was able to excel in every musical setting that she found herself. A strong jazz/blues vocalist who had many R&B hits, Washington always sounded confident and soulful even when backed by studio orchestras. However after her February 19, 1959 recording of "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes" became a major hit and she gained fame, Washington stuck to safely commercial pop music. Even when she was singing superior songs during the 1959-1963 period, she was always backed by large orchestras outfitted with extremely commercial charts better suited to country-pop stars. The sixth in Mercury's series of three-CD sets starts with the February 19 session and covers 21 months in Washington's career. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released September 18, 1990 | Verve Reissues

The seventh and final volume in Mercury's Complete series of Dinah Washington's recordings has impeccable packaging and largely inferior music, at least from the jazz standpoint. After recording a surprising hit version of "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes" in 1959, the singer stuck exclusively to middle-of-the-road pop music with large string orchestras on her recordings. This three-CD set (which contains Washington's final 67 recordings for Mercury plus a recently discovered alternate take from 1947) is often difficult to sit through for it totally lacks surprises, suspense or spontaneity. For completists only, but get the first five volumes. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released July 1, 1991 | Mercury Records

Mercury has given the great singer Dinah Washington the complete treatment with seven three-CD sets that contain all of her recordings during the 1946-1961 period, practically her entire career. Vol. 5 is the final volume to be highly recommended, since it has her final jazz recordings. On many of these performances she is backed by orchestras led by Quincy Jones, Ernie Wilkins (including a tribute to Fats Waller), or Eddie Chamblee in arrangements that often leave room for short statements from some of the sidemen; one of the albums with Chamblee has a full set of songs associated with Bessie Smith. Vol. 5 (which contains only a few commercial sides) concludes with her strong performance at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1955 | Verve Reissues

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." © TiVo
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Jazz - Released September 5, 1987 | Verve Reissues

All of Dinah Washington's studio recordings from 1946-1961 have been reissued in definitive fashion by Polygram on seven three-CD sets. Vol. 1 finds the youthful singer (who was 21 on the earliest sessions) evolving from a little-known but already talented singer to a best-selling R&B artist. Ranging from jazz and spirited blues to middle-of-the-road ballads, this set (as with the others in the Complete series) includes both gems and duds but fortunately the great majority fall into the former category. The backup groups include orchestras led by Gerald Wilson, Tab Smith, Cootie Williams, Chubby Jackson, and Teddy Stewart and there are a dozen strong numbers with just a rhythm section. The first five volumes in this series are highly recommended. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1987 | Verve Reissues

Dinah Washington was a best-selling artist on the R&B charts during this period but she was also a very versatile singer who could easily handle swinging jazz, schmaltzy ballads, blues, and novelties with equal skill. The second of these seven three-CD sets in Mercury's Complete program mostly finds Washington being accompanied by studio orchestras although the Ravens join her on two numbers and drummer Jimmy Cobb heads a couple of jazz groups (including one with both Ben Webster and Wardell Gray on tenors). Not every selection is a classic but the quality level is quite high and the packaging is impeccable. Recommended. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released November 30, 2010 | Verve Reissues

A four-CD box set containing 107 tracks, The Fabulous Miss D! The Keynote, Decca and Mercury Singles 1943-1953 traces the first decade of Dinah Washington's recording career on 78s and 45s with a song on either side, starting with her stint with Lionel Hampton and continuing through the early years of her solo career. The album title implies an equivalence among the three labels for which Washington recorded in this period, but that is just a way of assuring the potential customer that those early Hampton sides -- the Keynote singles "Evil Gal Blues"/"Homeward Bound" and "Salty Papa Blues"/"I Know How to Do It" featuring a Hampton sextet, and Hampton's Decca single "Blow Top Blues" -- are included. In fact, most of this material comes from Mercury, and that means her string of solo R&B hits starting with 1948's "Ain't Misbehavin'" and running through 1953's double-sided "TV Is the Thing (This Year)"/"Fat Daddy," with the chart toppers "Am I Asking Too Much" and "Baby Get Lost" in between, along with all the B-sides (some of which also charted) and plenty of non-chart items, all in chronological order. That sequencing allows an appreciation of Washington's development from the bluesy jazz and big-band efforts of the early recordings through jump blues to a mixture of ‘50s R&B and lush pop efforts. It's clear that Mercury hoped to cross Washington over to the pop charts, and every now and then, strings and a hearty backup chorus signal an attempt to push her toward the sound of Patti Page. But only "I Wanna Be Loved" made an impression on the pop chart in this period, and the poppier efforts tended to miss the R&B charts, where Washington otherwise scored consistently in the Top Ten. Sometimes, she did so by going gutbucket and gritty, such as on "Long John Blues," perhaps the most salacious song ever written about dentistry ("You thrill me when you drill me") and a number three hit in 1949. But Washington got to the same chart peak with her version of Hank Williams' "Cold Cold Heart," which suggests both her versatility and the range of Mercury's demands on her. Indeed, she was frequently called upon to cover pop hits for the R&B market during this period, and succeeded with such reverse crossover hits as "Harbor Lights," "My Heart Cries for You," "Wheel of Fortune," and "Tell Me Why," which, just earlier, had been pop chart entries for Sammy Kaye, Guy Mitchell, Kay Starr, and the Four Aces, respectively. And she occasionally undertook pop standards, such as "Embraceable You" and "How Deep Is the Ocean," or dipped into the Bing Crosby ("Just One More Chance") or Frank Sinatra ("I'm a Fool to Want You") catalogs, always with satisfying results. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Jazz - Released June 27, 2000 | Verve Reissues

Verve continues their Finest Hour series with Dinah Washington's Finest Hour, an 18-song collection highlighting the entire range of her repertoire, from blues to jazz to pop. "Evil Gal Blues," "What a Diff'rence a Day Made," "West Side Baby," "Trouble in Mind," and "Blue Gardenia" make this set an entertaining, if not comprehensive, overview of Washington's wonderful vocal gifts. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1956 | Verve Reissues

One of many fine EmArcy titles Dinah Washington recorded in the '50s, Dinah! includes a very enjoyable mix of medium-tempo and after-hours vocal numbers. On a handful of cuts, Washington gets into the kind of smoldering and declamatory blues mode she excelled at, especially on "All of Me" and "There'll Be Some Changes Made." Showing her versatility, Washington also shines on relatively tame pop numbers, like the album's waltz-tempo version of "Look to the Rainbow" and an easy strolling "Accent on Youth." Even here, her vocal power comes through, albeit with the blues phrasing mostly kept under wraps. On "A Cottage for Sale," Washington seems to harness all her vocal talents, creating a dazzling mix of jazz phrases, dramatic tonal shifts, and bluesy exclamations, all enveloped in a weary and melancholic tone befitting a breakup song. Besides this gem, other standout selections include "More Than You Know" and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." Hal Mooney provides solid, if not terribly provocative big-band and strings arrangements, with fine solos and obbligato passages coming from former Benny Goodman tenorman George Auld and West Coast jazz luminaries like trombonist Frankie Rosolino and alto saxophonist Herb Geller. Washington's rhythm section at the time, pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Keeter Betts, and drummer Jimmy Cobb, provide stellar rhythmic accompaniment throughout. A top Dinah Washington date, and a fine place to start for newcomers to the singer's catalog. © Stephen Cook /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1956 | Verve Reissues

Dinah Washington was accompanied by an orchestra organized and conducted by Quincy Jones on this 1957 album, and she was singing to arrangements mostly written by the young bandleader, swing charts of pop standards by the likes of Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and Duke Ellington. The result had much in common with the swing albums of Frank Sinatra in the same period, especially because Jones' arrangements were heavily influenced by Billy May and Nelson Riddle. Sinatra's records were regarded as "pop, " of course, and Washington's, at least when released on the EmArcy subsidiary of Mercury Records, as "jazz, " but her precise articulation and attention to lyrical meaning left little room for improvisation, and while Jones allowed for brief solos from a band that included Charlie Shavers, Clark Terry, Urbie Green, and Milt Hinton, the jazz categorization was actually arbitrary. Whatever musical genre you assign it to, however, this is an excellent Washington album. [For the 1998 reissue, Verve added seven bonus tracks recorded around the same time and with much the same personnel, though they were intended as singles and thus are inferior contemporary tunes. Often, however, Washington sounds more comfortable and enthusiastic on these pop and R&B songs than she does on the standards.] © William Ruhlmann /TiVo