This music, from the final stage of Dinah Washington's short and turbulent life, is a perfect snapshot of all she was in performance -- the brash belter, claiming and proclaiming her measure of fun and gaiety; the spurned lover, earnestly searching for one more chance, or determinedly wiping the slate clean of all romance; the wry commentator, knowingly chronicling the world's troubles as only she could observe them; and the optimistic dreamer, surrendering to the beauties of life.
After 15 years with Mercury and EmArcy, Dinah was wooed to Roulette by Morris Levy, who was the owner of Birdland and had befriended her years before. Over the next 20 months, she would record 93 songs for the label, 86 of which would be scattered over 8 albums. Fred Norman and Don Costa handled most of the arrangements and they range from swinging big bands to expansive string sections. Numbers range from the sly, knowing Drinking Again" to the painful lament, Lord, You Made Us Human." She crashes all known boundaries on familiar tunes such as That Old Feeling," Do Nothing 'Til You Hear From Me," and These Foolish Things."
Coming when these recordings did, after a lifetime on the road, there is particular poignancy to such songs as A Stranger on Earth" and Nobody Knows The Way I Feel This Morning." And you could say she was finally uniquely qualified to sing a love-gone-wrong song, after seven marriages and many romances in between.
In addition to seven previously un-issued tracks, this set includes an important discovery, a 20-minute medley backed only by piano and flute that finishes the first disc. It has never appeared anywhere. On this after-session gem, she moves casually through eight songs. Frequently after a gig, she'd hit the town with her piano player, looking for a club where she could sit down. This informal medley is no doubt the type of treat those club goers enjoyed. Stripped of all opulence, her performance shines for its technical mastery and her trademark phrasing.
Her recordings on Roulette display all of the power and intelligence of her earliest successes with an undisputable maturity that is the sign of a remarkable singer joining the ranks of the greats. They are her final legacy. Dinah Washington died suddenly on December 14, 1963 at the age of 39.
The Complete Roulette Dinah Washington Sessions (MD5-227) appears on five CDs. An exclusive essay on her life and music, including a track-by-track analysis of the material, is by Dinah's biographer, Nadine Cohodas. The Mosaic booklet also contains a discography of the material and many rare photographs from the actual sessions by Chuck Stewart. Limited to 5000 numbered copies worldwide.
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