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Dinah Washington

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Album Review

If you own Delmark's 1992 CD Mellow Mama, you have most of the recordings on this 2001 release from Cleopatra's Stardust label. Anthology, like Mellow Mama, contains all 12 of the songs that Dinah Washington recorded for Apollo on December 10-13, 1945, including sassy jazz/blues gems like "My Voot Is Really Vout," "Mellow Mama Blues," "Wise Woman Blues," and "Rich Man's Blues" (which humorously echoes the thoughts of gold diggers past and present). In fact, the 12 songs (which employ bop heavyweights like vibist Milt Jackson, tenor saxman Lucky Thompson, and bassist Charles Mingus) are heard in the same order on Anthology as they are on Mellow Mama. But while Mellow Mama focuses on the December 1945 sessions exclusively, Anthology contains three bonus tracks: "Shoo Shoo Baby," "Lover, Come Back to Me," and "Unforgettable." Recorded during a Lionel Hampton session of 1943, "Shoo Shoo Baby" is quite similar to the Apollo material. But "Lover, Come Back to Me" is pure bop, and Washington's famous 1959 recording of "Unforgettable" (a major hit for Nat "King" Cole in the early '50s) is a rewarding example of her talents as a jazz-influenced pop singer. Myopic jazz snobs love to denounce Washington as a sell-out for exploring pre-rock/pop in the 1950s and early '60s, but the singer never claimed to be a jazz purist — and anyone who dislikes "Unforgettable" simply because it isn't straight-ahead jazz is foolish and narrow-minded. From jazz/blues to hard bop to pop, Anthology paints a consistently attractive picture of the versatile Washington.


Born: 29 August 1924 in Tuscaloosa, AL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s

Dinah Washington was at once one of the most beloved and controversial singers of the mid-20th century — beloved to her fans, devotees, and fellow singers; controversial to critics who still accuse her of selling out her art to commerce and bad taste. Her principal sin, apparently, was to cultivate a distinctive vocal style that was at home in all kinds of music, be it R&B, blues, jazz, middle of the road pop — and she probably would have made a fine gospel or country singer had she...
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