Minneapolis native Diane Witherspoon has impeccable jazz-blues bona fides. She is the cousin to the late Jimmy Witherspoon and sister to former Ellington vocalist Shirley Witherspoon. She is a child of the church, honing her early vocal skills in the choir of her local house of worship. Ms. Witherspoon studied voice at Saint Olaf's College in Minnesota, piano and fundamental music at Laney College in Oakland, California. Her most recent musical output includes the Koch release You May Never Know (1999) and The Very Thought of You (2000). She returns now with her Summit debut, LA After Dark, featuring journeyman tenor player Teddy Edwards.
LA After Dark
is a collaboration between Ms. Witherspoon and lyricists John and Paula Hackett (as on her previous recordings), who have spent the last several years writing lyrics to some of the lesser known "jazz standards" in the repertoire, almost all exclusively for Ms. Witherspoon. This disc highlights several of Witherspoon’s creative musical relationships. The disc opens with the Teddy Edwards composition, "Teddy’s LA After Dark," to which the Hacketts penned lyrics. The same occurred Edwards’ sensual blockbuster "Our Night of Love" and Harry Edison’s "Sweet Sounds of the Night." Ms. Witherspoon and the Hacketts acknowledge the singer’s relationship with Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson with two songs: the bebop "Eddie’s Clean Machine" and the bluesy "Love’s Disguise."
Max Roach requested that the Hacketts compose lyrics for bassist Tyrone Brown’s "Tradition," on which the bassist performs. The result is a sumptuous ballad, complete with Rudi Wongozi playing his best Tommy Flanagan, while the singer tips her hat to Mingus and Duke and Miles. Ms. Witherspoon’s own "Music Brings You Back" echoes Van Morrison’s "Moondance" with its bounce and grace.
The Witherspoon-Hackett collaboration is one that I hope will continue and grow. This recording is something new and exciting finally bobbing to the surface... and not a minute too soon.