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Dinah Washington: 'Dinah Jams'


MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: Unmatchable. Unmistakable. Unforgettable. A voice like that, you just don't hear nowadays. That is Dinah Washington on a CD called Dinah Jams. A.B. Spellman, it's almost an insult to ask you what you like about that record.

A.B. SPELLMAN, National Endowment for the Arts: Well, I love Dinah Washington because she was a pure jazz singer. I don't think this kind of voice could have appeared in any other kind of singing, except jazz, or perhaps, rhythm-n-blues. It is a voice that is made of life. It is made not in any conservatory or any classroom. It does not have any training on how to handle vocal chords or how to make pear-shaped tones. This is a voice that comes out of experience. And it is a voice that you cannot deny. You are so moved by her interpretation of the song, that when you hear something like "No More," you are absolutely transported into an experience that must have really happened to her, and have probably has happened to you.


HORWITZ: Tell us a little bit about this session. It's called Dinah Jams.

SPELLMAN: It is a jam session in the purest sense. These are musicians — and very great ones — who were thrown together by Bob Shad, the producer, who was also thoughtful enough to bring in a live audience, to give it that kind of back and forth communication with real people.

There are some very great people here. I'll give you a couple of names. I've mentioned Clifford Brown. Clark Terry has some fabulous solos on here, that are identifiably Clark Terry in that unique way of phrasing he had. Maynard Ferguson is scraping the clouds with those high notes that he was so fond of showing off. A very hip, young alto saxophonist at that time, Herb Geller plays some find solos.

And then there's the whole Max Roach-Clifford Brown band, with Max playing some beautiful solos, and doing some great accompaniment here. It's an all around loose, live jam session, which is just fun to listen to. And it must have been fun to play.


HORWITZ: Well, you can hear it for yourself right there. That's why we're recommending for your NPR Basic Jazz Record Library Dinah Washington's Dinah Jams. It's on the EmArcy label. For NPRJazz, I'm Murray Horwitz.

SPELLMAN: And, I'm A.B. Spellman.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

A. B. Spellman
Murray Horwitz
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