Dinah Washington with Quincy Jones: The Swinging Miss “D”

The combination of Washington's exceptional vocal artistry and the Quincy Jones orchestra make this the best of the singer's collections


Apart from the amazingly consistent Miss Washington, the two elements that make this outstanding amongst her albums are the accompaniments by Quincy Jones and his lads and the superior material.

Dinah was usually described as a blues singer. Like Billie Holiday she could eat up blues when let loose, but, like Billie, she thrived also on popular ballads. Why were the two ladies so vulnerable? Lady Day was gone at 44 and Dinah at 39, both from drugs and booze.

Quincy was a touchstone and he envisaged exactly how to get the best from the singer. He did this for everyone whose accompaniment he took on, and in many ways he became greater than the artist. Ralph Burns was a similarly gifted arranger (arranging the occasion as well as the music).

From the first track, Quincy’s conception of the hoary They Didn’t Believe Me turns tradition on its head. The fine rhythm section clicks in the tempo, Dinah explodes the tune to her needs and Quincy has the trumpet section swapping solos. No point in having one of the best bands in the world if you’re not going to use it.

As Quincy put it: “She could take any melody in her hand, hold it like an egg, crack it open, fry it, let it sizzle, reconstruct it, put the egg back in the box and then back in the refrigerator and you would’ve still understood every single word she sang.”

All good singers have good diction, but Dinah transcended good. Not surprising then that these 21 tracks add up to the best of her collections, and it’s Quincy who does the heavy work.

They Didn’t Believe Me; You’re Crying; Making Whoopee; Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye; But Not For Me; Caravan; Perdido; Never Let Me Go; Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby; I’ll Close My Eyes; Somebody Loves Me; I’ll Drown My Tears; You Let My Love Grow Old; Bargain Day; If I Had You; I Could Write A Book; You Don’t Know What Love Is; My Old Flame; Easy Living; I Get A Kick Out Of You; Blue Gardenia (74.55)
Dinah Washington with the Quincy Jones Orchestra. NYC, March 1955 and December 1956.
Essential Jazz Classics EJC 55759