Old/New Albums: Dinah Washington’s “The Swingin’ Miss ‘D'”

dinahwashingtonMy finding this album is one of those gorgeously fortuitous circumstances where a string of seemingly unconnected events led me to this album. I’ll give you the truncated version:

In October, Colleen and I (and an in-utero Millie) were visiting our good friends Nicholi and Tiffany out in Seattle. We had one last night before heading home and we were running through things we could go do. Nic and Tiffany had researched a few options and one was see who was being featured in the month-long jazz festival. None of us being huge jazz fans, I honestly didn’t think it would happen since none of us would know who was playing.

Wouldn’t you know it, they are running through the list of performers that evening and The Roy Hargrove Quintet was one. I immediately flipped and we called for tickets. Fast forward to the show; we walk into this small, dark jazz club and get seated in a comfortable booth about 30 feet from the stage. I’ve written more about the show here, but let me say it was one of the very best live music experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of having.

Apologies, that really wasn’t that brief. Anyway, one of the songs that RHQ did was “Never Let Me Go.” In fact, if my memory serves me, it was the only song to which Roy Hargrove himself provided vocals. And it was gorgeous. He has such an unexpected voice, and it lent itself to the song so well and was just a heartbreaking song. Heading home, I knew I’d need to do some research on this tune.

Turns out, it’s a song written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans for the 1956 film “The Scarlet Hour.” I also found that it was done by the jazz singer Dinah Washington on her record The Swingin’ Miss “D”, released the same year as the film.

Dinah Washington was a name that was just barely on the periphery of my jazz knowledge, but getting to know this record has been wonderful. He vocal tone has quite a warble to it, but it’s far more subtle than say, Snow White’s warble. It is perfectly suited for this orchestral jazz music.

Speaking of the music, look who else’s name is on the cover of the album. It’s one of my Top 5 Favorite Producers*: Quincy Jones. One of the coolest parts of this record is hearing Jones’ orchestra play such a fun array of big band jazz tunes.

The thing that really stuck out to me most is how intricately the musical parts are weaved together. Brass on top of strings on top of percussion on top of whatever else. Within each instrument section, he’s putting lines together that are so beautifully complementary. After hearing his orchestra, it’s fascinating to go back to an album like Thriller and realize that Q was able to produce, arguably, the best pop album of all time because of his work on decades-old albums like The Swingin’ Miss “D”.

While she might not be as immediately well-known as Billie or Ella, Dinah Washington holds her own in the vocal arena. If you fancy yourself a fan of ’40s/’50s big band standards, you’ll get a kick out of this album.

Top 3 Tunes:

  1. Never Let Me Go
  2. Every Time We Say Goodbye
  3. They Don’t Believe Me

*I quickly skimmed this 6-year old blog before I linked to it, and I need to qualify it by saying how out of date the list is. There is a great chance Kanye wouldn’t even make my Top 5 anymore, let alone be number 1. I should redo that list sometime.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Old/New Albums: Dinah Washington’s “The Swingin’ Miss ‘D'”

  1. Pingback: Dinah Washington's 'The Swingin' Miss D' - RVJ [radio.video.jazz]

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