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The Swingin' Miss "D"

Dinah Washington

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Album Review

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.]

Biography

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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