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Extended Analysis

The Complete Roulette Dinah Washington Sessions

By Published: December 24, 2004
Dinah Washington
The Complete Roulette Dinah Washington Sessions
Mosaic Records

What a voice!

Five CDs and 94 tracks from her 1962-63 recording sessions give this complete Dinah Washington collection from Mosaic ample opportunities for extended listening. Five hours of Ms. Washington's expressive way with a song tell a long and detailed story.

She swings naturally with a genuine aura. On Disc I, walking bass, comping piano, rhythm guitar and a swinging big band surround her with a mood that supports well. It's wholesome. The focus remains on her lustrous voice and the stories that she has to tell.

Washington led a full life. She was at equally at ease with jazz, blues, R&B and emotional ballads. Her sidemen consisted of talented musicians who lent a memorable character to her recordings. The magnificent vocal range that she exhibited sends chills up and down your spine. The songs that she selected remain indelible in our memories.

Disc I ends with a 21-minute medley of popular songs, presented informally with just flute and piano. Not previously released, this medley provides an intimate glimpse of the singer and her magnetic allure. The recorded sound has been reproduced well. Why wasn't this precious piece released by Roulette after it was recorded in March 1962?

Beginning with Disc II, Washington adds the lush orchestra with strings accompaniment that characterized her performances for the remainder of her career. Again, the focus remains on her alluring voice and the emotional impact that she wove into each song. Interpreting each lyric clearly and emphatically, she delivered a no-nonsense ballad that reached millions of hearts. "The Man that Got Away" makes a particularly strong impression. Washington's emphasis and drive, along with the big band's swinging attitude, gives it a special lift. One track, "There I Go," was not issued previously. On it, we find her accompaniment pared down in places, so that the singer's unique vocal delivery can be appreciated even more.

Disc III begins with an Ellington orchestration in a slow swing. Strings are then added, and the piece is transformed into the kind of larger-than-life production that she liked to record. Celeste, harp, and violins, as well as saxophones, trumpets and trombones gave her a very large sound. Everett Barksdale and Kenny Burrell supplied the sensual rhythm guitar accompaniment that remained by her side, along with the orchestra. "Take Me in Your Arms" features an exotic bolero rhythm that Burrell fills with delicate guitar asides. "Love is the Sweetest Thing" swings lightly with a country air, as Burrell again adds the spice that perks up Washington's accompaniment.

Walking bass and blues piano remained an integral part throughout Washington's career. Disc IV brings back the big blues band sound that got her there. Guitarist Billy Butler trades with her on "No One Man," as they both exhibit a natural, conversational style. Tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet partners with her on "Let Me Be the First to Know." Together, they deliver the song's message clearly. Most of the tracks eschew the string orchestra in favor of a swinging big band or a smaller blues band. Butler brought a hearty blues guitar voice to Washington's performances.

Disc V features an eclectic array of songs recorded in Chicago and New York. Lush strings, a swinging big band or an intimate blues band give her plenty of opportunities for change. Billy Byers begins "I Wanna Be Around" with an emotional trombone introduction before Washington and a lush string orchestra take over. She convinces. Like Ray Charles, she was able to combine elements from many genres into her performance and produce a quality product. Her songs reach their target along a straight and narrow path. The collection ends with five tracks that feature Washington with a swinging big band whose members include trumpeter Ernie Royal, baritone saxophonist Cecil Payne and bassist Milt Hinton. Throughout her career, she attracted the best.

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 all known details of the recording sessions, and there are many rare photographs from the actual sessions by Chuck Stewart. All recordings are available solely through Mosaic Records, 35 Melrose Place, Stamford, CT 06902; (203) 327-7111. Please check for more information.

Track listing:

Disc I: Drinking Again; Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby?; Destination Moon; Take Your Shoes Off, Baby; Where Are You; Make Believe Dreams; Something's Gotta Give; Coquette; You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You; Red Sails in the Sunset; A Handful of Stars; Miss You; I'll Never Stop Loving You; Me and My Gin; You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You; Drinking Again; Where Are You; Medley: Ill Wind / For All We Know / I Could Have Told You So / Smoke Gets in Your Eyes / Goodbye / Make the Man Love Me / Blue Gardenia / I Concentrate on You. Disc II: I'll Be Around; For All We Know; Just Friends; I'm Gonna Laugh You Out of My Life; Lover Man; Say It Isn't So; That Old Feeling; Love, I Found You Gone; On the Street of Regret; The Man That Got Away; Baby, Won't You Please Come Home; I Don't Know You Anymore; Someone Else is Taking My Place; He's Gone Again; I Didn't Know About You; There I Go; You're a Sweetheart; I'll Close my Eyes. Disc III: Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me; My Devotion; If It's the Last Thing I Do; Our Love; It's a Mean Old Man's World; Was It Like That?; Fly Me to the Moon; I Wouldn't Know What to Do; No Hard Feelings; Me and the One I Love; There Must Be a Way; Take Me in Your Arms; What's New; Love is the Sweetest Thing; These Foolish Things; That's My Desire; The More I See You; I Used to Love You (But it's All Over Now). Disc IV: Just One More Chance; Blue Gardenia; He's My Guy; I Ran Out of Reasons; No One Man; Let Me Be the First to Know; If I Never Get to Heaven; Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning; Don't Say Nothing At All; You've Been a Good Old Wagon; Me and My Gin; How Long, How Long Blues; Don't Come Runnin' Back to Me; Duck Before You Drown; The Blues Ain't Nothin' But a Woman Cryin' for Her Man; Key to the Highway; Romance in the Dark; If I Never Get to Heaven; Soulville. Disc V: The Show Must Go On; Why Was I Born; I Wanna Be Around; I Left My Heart in San Francisco; What Kind of Fool Am I; Make Someone Happy; Rags to Riches; I'm Glad for Your Sake; Bill; Drown in my Own Tears; That Sunday (That Summer); A Stranger on Earth; The Good Life; Funny Thing; To Forget About You; Icy Stone; Stars Over my Shoulder; Call Me Irresponsible; Lingering; Lord, You Made Us Human; They Said You'd Come Back Running.


Dinah Washington- vocals; Jimmy Sigler- organ, background vocals; Jack Wilson, Patti Brown- piano; Milt Hinton, George Duvivier- bass; Jimmy Thomas- drums, solo vocal on "Where Are You," background vocals; Osie Johnson- drums; Kenny Burrell, Billy Butler, Everett Barksdale- guitar; Selden Powell- woodwinds; Earl Edwards- tenor saxophone, flute, background vocals; Illinois Jacquet, Eddie Chamblee- tenor saxophone; Cecil Payne- baritone saxophone; Ernie Royal- trumpet; Billy Byers- trombone; Boris Zlatich, Sidney Harth, Theresa Harth, Fred Spector- violin; Phil Kauffman- viola; Sam Sciacchitano- cello; Edward Druzinsky- harp; Chuck Barksdale- vocal on "The More I See You," background vocals; Johnny Carter, Cornell Gunter, Richard Williams- background vocals; others.

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