Wesla WhitfieldView in iTunes
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One of contemporary jazz's foremost interpreters of popular standards, Wesla Whitfield won widespread acclaim for her elastic vocals, clarion pitch, and impeccable phrasing. A native of the Los Angeles area, Whitfield took both voice and piano lessons as a child, later studying classical music in college and going on to sing in the chorus of the San Francisco Opera. However, the opera took away from her true love, the pop standards of her youth, and she frequently moonlighted in local piano bars; finally, during the mid-'70s, Whitfield began pursuing a cabaret career full time, initially taking a job as a singing waitress. In 1977, she was the victim of a seemingly random street shooting that left her paralyzed from the waist down; after extensive therapy, she returned to music, and in 1981 began collaborating with bassist Michael Greensill, who five years later became her husband. Over time, Whitfield gradually moved away from her classical background toward jazz, her voice lowering from soprano to alto; she began recording extensively during the mid-'80s on her own Myoho label, later moving to Landmark with 1990's Lucky to Be Me. She subsequently jumped to the Highnote label with 1997's Teach Me Tonight. ~ Jason Ankeny