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Dinah Washington: Standards (Great Songs/Great Performances)

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Album Review

With her clipped phrasing, high-pitched voice, and unhurried pacing, Dinah Washington could have easily been one of the definitive jazz singers of her generation, and one could certainly make the case that she was anyway, but she baffled a lot of critics by straying often from the jazz book of standards, as if commercial pop success was somehow a betrayal. This brief set of tracks drawn from her stay at Verve Records paints a portrait that’s closer to the one the critics seemed to want, a gifted singer showing her jazz chops. Among the highlights of this lightly orchestrated sequence of jazz standards are Washington’s fine versions of “Am I Blue?” (Washington was always at her best when she sang about lost or damaged love — she had seven marriages, after all), “Cry Me a River,” and “September in the Rain,” although all eight of these tracks have a similar feel and texture to them. It was Washington’s clear, clipped, and deliberate singing that defined her, and it is on display everywhere here, making this an affordable quick introduction to this often underappreciated artist.

Biography

Born: August 29, 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...
Full Bio