With her clipped phrasing, high-pitched voice, and unhurried pacing, Dinah Washington
could have easily been one of the definitive jazz singers of her generation, and one could certainly make the case that she was anyway, but she baffled a lot of critics by straying often from the jazz book of standards, as if commercial pop success was somehow a betrayal. This brief set of tracks drawn from her stay at Verve Records paints a portrait that’s closer to the one the critics seemed to want, a gifted singer showing her jazz chops. Among the highlights of this lightly orchestrated sequence of jazz standards are Washington’
s fine versions of “Am I Blue?” (Washington
was always at her best when she sang about lost or damaged love -- she had seven marriages, after all), “Cry Me a River,” and “September in the Rain,” although all eight of these tracks have a similar feel and texture to them. It was Washington’
s clear, clipped, and deliberate singing that defined her, and it is on display everywhere here, making this an affordable quick introduction to this often underappreciated artist.