Of all the many female jazz singers, Dinah Washington
remains the most contemporary. Her voice was always cocked and loaded, her phrasing was akin to the sound of a getaway car, and her attitude told you she was not only charge but that you didn't really have a say. Washington was the embodiment of the crossover singer-storyteller—sliding effortlessly between R&B, jazz and pop without ever giving up her soul.
Unfortunately, too few of her performances exist on film. The problem is she never made it into the post-Civil Rights Acts era, when TV became more integrated and black jazz performers were invited onto variety shows with white hosts. Washington died in 1963, a year before the act was passed.
Yesterday, Jim Eigo of Jazz Promo Services
sent along a link to a performance by Washington on March 8, 1960 at the Apollo Theater. On this NBC footage, Washington is singing What a Difference a Day Made
and Makin' Whoopee
. What's extraordinary is her composure and how she delivers the lyrics—improvising here and there to make a point. Other than Jazz on a Summer's Day
(1960) and a few other rare appearances, this is all we have.Here's
Dinah Washington at the Apollo... Here
she is, circa 1958, singing Bessie Smith...
she is in 1956...
This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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