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What a Diff'rence a Day Makes

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Album Review

Reading the credits of What a Diff'rence a Day Makes, one could easily assume that it is a jazz album. This 1975 LP was produced by Creed Taylor and arranged by guitarist Joe Beck; the other participants range from Michael Brecker on tenor sax, David Sanborn on alto sax, and Randy Brecker on trumpet to Steve Khan on guitar and Don Grolnick on keyboards. With that lineup, Esther Phillips could have easily delivered a first-class jazz album. But What a Diff'rence a Day Makes doesn't contain any jazz — not even jazz-funk or soul-jazz. It is, however, an excellent soul/disco outing. This LP is best-known for its hit title song, an inspired disco version of a standard that has usually been heard in jazz and pre-rock pop settings. But the song works surprisingly well as disco, and the other tracks are equally impressive. Phillips is as soulful and convincing on the bluesy "I Can Stand a Little Rain" as she is on Gamble & Huff's "One Night Affair" (a Philadelphia soul classic that was recorded by Jerry Butler in 1972 and the O'Jays in 1969) and Ralph MacDonald's "Mister Magic."The latter is the gem that Grover Washington, Jr. is best remembered for; while his famous version was instrumental jazz-funk, Phillips' is vocal-oriented soul. It should be noted that most of the jazz musicians who back Phillips on What a Diff'rence a Day Makes are not jazz snobs. The Brecker Brothers and Sanborn, for example, have done their share of R&B sessions, and they would probably be the first to tell you that this LP needs to be judged by R&B standards instead of jazz standards. And when R&B standards are applied, it is easy to conclude that What a Diff'rence a Day Makes is among Phillips' finest releases. [The 2002 reissue adds a second version of "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes."]


Born: 23 December 1935 in Galveston, TX

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Esther Phillips was perhaps too versatile for her own good, at least commercially speaking; while she was adept at singing blues, early R&B, gritty soul, jazz, straight-up pop, disco, and even country, her record companies often lacked a clear idea of how to market her, which prevented her from reaching as wide an audience as she otherwise might have. An acquired taste for some, Phillips' voice had an idiosyncratic, nasal quality that often earned comparisons to Nina Simone, although she herself...
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What a Diff'rence a Day Makes, Esther Phillips
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