Dinah Washington: Sings Blazing Ballads

Washington boasted she could sing anything. In this vinyl reissue with four bonus tracks she is limited to stylish ballads with Quincy Jones


This is a volume in the Supper Club series of limited-edition reissues in high-quality 180-gram vinyl. They feature distinguished female jazz and popular vocalists and 40 are currently available.

This one has 14 tracks, adding four bonus tracks to the original album. Most – and the best – of them place her in an orchestra directed by Quincy Jones. Dinah obviously relished the company of such sympathetic players as Clark Terry, Paul Quinichette, Cecil Payne, Wynton Kelly, Keter Betts and Jimmy Cobb. Reviewing Dinah Washington and Quincy Jones: The Complete Sessions, I wrote that these studio dates were in the same select category as her “live” performances on the LP Dinah Jams (1954). Blazing Ballads includes peerless versions of If I Had You, Easy Living and Mad About The Boy.

Although one might quibble about some of the songs included in this anthology (Blue Gardenia and This Bitter Earth), throughout Dinah displays her awesome mastery of all genres and styles. As the late Bruce Crowther, a self-confessed and ardent Washingtonian – declared in Jazz Journal, “whether singing jazz or the blues, standards or R&B, she was never less than good, often very good, and sometimes outstanding”.

That astute verdict is particularly applicable to the LP under review. I would only add that it was her Alabama gospel roots, unique delivery, diction (and conviction), and an unabashed sexuality (listen to Teach Me Tonight) that won her a mass audience. Between 1955 and 1962 19 of her records were in the charts. After her premature death, Dinah’s intimate friend, champion and mentor Quincy Jones reflected that “Every single melody she sang she made hers.” To give her the last word, Dinah “The Queen” once announced “I can sing anything – anything at all.” She could and did.

If I Had You; Teach Me Tonight; You Don’t Know What Love Is; I Could Write A Book; Blue Gardenia; Cry Me A River (23.30) – Mad About The Boy; Easy Living; I’ll Close My Eyes; What A Difference A Day Made; Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love); These Foolish Things; If It’s The Last Thing I Do; This Bitter Earth (25.05)
Washington (v) on all tracks with collective personnel including Quincy Jones, Don Costa (arr, cond); Clark Terry, Joe Newman (t); Jimmy Cleveland (tb); Cecil Payne (bar); Cannonball Adderley (as); Wynton Kelly, Junior Mance (p); Kenny Burrell (g); Osie Johnson (d). New York, 19 February 1959, 15-17 March 1955; 6 October 1959; Chicago, December 1961; New York, 24 August 1962.
Supper Club 037