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China Moses & Raphael Lemonnier: This One's For Dinah

Chris Mosey By

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Once upon a time, the Queen of the Blues was visited in her dressing room backstage by a woman and her baby daughter. The Queen of the Blues picked up the baby, looked at her and said, "She's gonna be a singer. She's definitely gonna be a singer." The prediction came true. The Queen was Dinah Washington; the baby, Dee Dee Bridgewater.

Many years passed. Bridgewater married film director Otis Moses and had a daughter of her own, who Moses insisted be named China. When her mother was away touring, China was looked after by her grandmother. One day she flicked through her gran's record collection, found a record and put it on. It was by Dinah Washington. Her grandmother was horrified, thinking the music far too suggestive for such young and tender ears, and took the record off.

That did it. Young China saw Dinah Washington as forbidden fruit and whenever her grandmother wasn't around, she would play her records.

More years passed. Dee Dee Bridgewater took her daughter to live with her in Paris, France. Here China has returned to the forbidden fruit of her childhood. Accompanied by a big band led by pianist Raphael Lemonnier, she's cut an album paying tribute to Washington.

Things get off to a great start with the 12-bar blues "Fine Fine Daddy" and Moses' own "Dinah's Blues." She also does an excellent job on Noel Coward's "Mad About the Boy," which in 1992—29 years after Washington's death—made the charts after being used to advertise jeans on television.

"Lover Come Back to Me" is a swinging affair, with some solid trumpet work from Francois Biensan followed by some nice scatting by saxophonist Daniel Huck. Then Moses handles Louis Jordan's "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby?" with aplomb and there are good, workmanlike solos by Fabien Marcoz (bass) and Lemonnier.

She's less sure of herself though on the slow ballad "Blue Gardenia." And "Teach Me Tonight" is quite frankly a mess. Her flippant, meandering and at times downright strident vocal eradicates any meaning the old song might still have in the modern age. She's still got a lot to learn from her mother. The mawkishly melodramatic "Goodbye" is little better, with Moses coming on like Screaming Jay Hawkins toward close of play.

She's far more self-assured on "Cry Me A River" and the two up-tempo blues—"Fat Daddy" and "Evil Gal Blues." Her version of Washington's greatest hit, the ballad "What A Diff'rence A Day Makes," is really quite remarkable. A bright new star has entered the jazz firmament.

The album easily makes up for its failings in the enthusiasm and good humor it conveys. It should have ended with "What A Diff'rence A Day Makes." Instead it closes with "Gardenias for Dinah," an embarrassing 50-second soliloquy by Lemonnier—very French, very solemn. Washington would surely have laughed her socks off.

Track Listing: Fine Fine Daddy; Dinah's Blues; Mad About The Boy; Lover Come Back To Me; Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby?; Blue Gardenia; Teach Me Tonight; Cry Me A River; Fat Daddy; Goodbye; Evil Gal Blues; What A Diff'rence A Day Makes; Gardenias for Dinah.

Personnel: China Moses: vocals; Raphael Lemonnier: piano; Fabien Marcoz: bass; Jean-Pierre Derouard: drums; Daniel Huck: alto saxophone; Francois Biensan: trumpet; Jean-Claude Onesta: trombone; Aurelie Tropez: alto saxophone and clarinet; Frederic Couderc: tenor and baritone saxophone; Raphael Dever: bass; Henri Le Ny: additional vocals.

Title: This One's For Dinah | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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