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After Hours with Miss D (Remastered)

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Album Review

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.

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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