Vocalist Shirley Witherspoon enjoyed a brief stint with Duke Ellington yet has been a major force on the Minneapolis/St.Paul jazz scene for thirty-nine years. In fact, January 26th is “Shirley Witherspoon” day in Minnesota yet Ms. Witherspoon was diagnosed with diabetes in 1986, which has to some extent, impeded her career. However, with her fine new release titled, Magic & Love, the vocalist demonstrates why she is so highly regarded as a premier jazz/blues vocalist and stylist. Here, she receives excellent support from time-honored artists such as pianist Kenny Werner, saxophonist Jimmy Heath and harmonica maestro Toots Thielemans.
Ms. Witherspoon turns the standard, “It Had To Be You” into an enticingly tantalizing slow drag blues augmented by a lightly swinging pulse. On this piece, the vocalist caresses the lyrics while maintaining a personalized style of execution marked by sultry inflections and near-flawless intonation. On “Mama Treat Your Daughter Mean”, Ms. Witherspoon effortlessly whirls through an R&B style swing motif that also features some tasty muted trumpet work by Gene Adams. She renders passionate lyricism on “T’aint Nobodys Business If I Do” which is enhanced by pianist Kenny Werner’s punctual rhythmic accents and counter melodies while Ms. Witherspoon sings as though she lives the experience on “Do Nothing Til You Hear From Me”.
Overall, Shirley Witherspoon’s charismatic presence and unique vocal prowess provides listeners with a sparkling glimpse of a major talent who shows no signs of slowing down despite her ongoing battle with diabetes. A fine outing indeed!
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Shirley Witherspoon; Vocals: Kenny Werner; Piano: Gordon Johnson; Bass: Jay Epstein; Drums: WithSpecial Guests- Jimmy Heath; Sax (5 & 8): Jean