Accompanied by The Ike Quebec Quintet
This set (reissued on CD) was a very unusual release for Blue Note. Dodo Greene was only the second singer to lead a session for Alfred Lion's label (Sheila Jordan had preceded her) and Greene's mixture of R&B and soulful blues in a voice very reminiscent of late-period Dinah Washington is much more pop and blues-oriented than the music on any other Blue Note release from the period. What other Blue Note album has a full program of soul ballads clocking in between three to five minutes apiece? Although Dodo Greene (who had recorded one slightly earlier record for Time) was apparently signed to an exclusive contract, her only other Blue Note session (six of its nine numbers conclude this CD) had never been previously released. In reality, the main reason to acquire the relaxed set is for the warm tenor of Ike Quebec (who is perfect in this setting) and the occasional guitar of Grant Green. A true obscurity.
- Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
========= from the cover ==========
For the first time since its founding in 1939, Blue Note has signed a vocalist to an exclusive contract. Her name is Dodo Greene, and this is her first album for the label. As could have been predicted from the kind of music which has always characterized Blue Note, this initial singer had, above all, to be able to communicate undiluted emotions. And in Dodo Greene, Alfred Lion of Blue Note has found a vocalist who does not hoard her feelings. "I sing," Dodo explains, "about things I've lived with. And when I sing, I'm telling about my own experiences, my own losses, my own hopes."
After the two sessions which make up this album, Alfred Lion sketched his impressions of Dodo: "She's got everything it takes. A big, warm voice with that good gospel feeling underneath. Lots of soul, and a striking personality with an abundance of spirit. I feel it doesn't make any difference where she sings. She'll nave the right thing going in a plush East Side place or one with sawdust on the floor. She can command her audience into silence, and she can also get a good-time Saturday night crowd stomping their feet and snapping their fingers."
She can indeed. I've seen Dodo work, and hearing her recalled those venturesome nights of my youth when I visited all kinds of clubs, looking for and only occasionally finding a singer with the spontaneous impact of a Dodo Greene. In recent years, I thought the species had become extinct. I've become weary of the anxiously "hip" vocalists who think that the way to mesmerize an audience is by choking on the lyrics of a song in an attempt to imitate intimacy. I'm also tired of the singers who think that lyrics are secondary to what they conceive of as "instrumentalized" vocalizing. As a result, all the songs sound the same, and the singer comes on like a third-rate horn. But Dodo is a vintage club singer-a woman who tells a story, and projects everything she feels without self-conscious posturing.
Born in Buffalo, Dodo came from a musical family. Her mother sang in the local Baptist church where Dodo obtained her own apprenticeship in the power and unbridled sound of gospel singing. Two brothers played drums and saxophone. Dodo at first intended to become a nurse although she swept all the amateur contests in town while she was growing up. Local musicians soon admitted her into their list of approved singers, and on the recommendation of some of them, she filled in for an ailing vocalist during a visit to Buffalo by Cozy Cole. Cozy asked her to join his combo, but although she refused and continued to work at a hospital, she eventually did turn to singing full-time. To list the rooms in which she has appeared would make the rest of these notes look like a catalogue, but among them have been Basin Street East in New York; Chicago's Mr. Kelly's; the Deauville Hotel in Miami; the Stork, Astor and Pigalle clubs in London; and various locations in Germany. Through the years, Dodo has acquired a proselytizing fan club among such singers as Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington and Ella Fitzgerald. They come to hear Dodo for reasons that are vibrantly evident in this recording -bedrock emotional singing with a deeply pulsating beat.
For Dodo, this Blue Note album is the first time she has been recorded as she has always wanted to be. "I was given freedom," she notes. "I could do what I wanted to do, and nobody told me how to sing. I was able to be myself, and that's why the performances are so relaxed." The functional arrangements are by Ike Quebec and Sir Charles Thompson, but both worked closely with Dodo in outlining the scores.
Dodo had never worked with Ike Quebec before these sessions. "I just love him!" she said after the date was over, and then proceeded to buy his album, Heavy Soul (Blue Note 4093). "He has such a big sound," Dodo continued her tribute to Ike. "And he always gets what he reaches for. The man lives his music in the same way I feel I'm living mine. He goes deep inside himself to bring it out." Dodo also fused easily with the rhythm sections and was particularly stimulated by the blues strength of Grant Green. It was Dodo's idea, moreover, For Sir Charles to play organ. "I wanted," she explains, "to get that gospel feeling, and it comes through much more fully on the organ than on piano. And Sir Charles was the man to choose because he doesn't overwhelm you. He really listens to a singer."
The music on the album is so much a matter of feeling that detailed analysis is superfluous. I would suggest you observe, however, the forcefulness of Dodo's style from the opening My Hour of Need to the end of the set. There's no holding back. My own favorite track is Trouble in Mind, a smoldering performance punctuated by the sudden catch in Dodo's voice at the end of key phrases. Note too the way she can change the texture of her sound, as in: "...let the 2:19 e-a-s-e my troubled mind." Further evidence of her flexibility is the strutting, semi-parody of You Are My Sunshine.
For Dodo, trie best performance was I'll Never Stop Loving You. 'That song," she says, "reflects something in my private life, and I think you can tell I was singing to one specific person." In that track and I Won't Cry Anymore, as on the other ballads in the set, Dodo has a penetrating clarity of diction and an incisive phrasing that focuses on the pivotal words in the lyrics. There is also her loping, resilient beat on Lonesome Road; the sensuous immediacy of her sound in Let There Be Love; the evocative vibrato in There Must Be A Way; the infectious buoyancy of Down By The Riverside, complemented by Ike Quebec's booting solo; and the scope of expressivity in Little Things Mean A Lot which moves from strategic understatement to unfettered belting.
Ike Quebec, Grant Green ana Sir Charles Thompson are on all the numbers. For My Hour of Need, You Are My Sunshine, I'll Never Stop Loving You, I Won't Cry Anymore, Lonesome Road, and There Must Be A Way, Herbie Lewis is on bass and Billy Higgins is the drummer. On the other tracks, Lewis is replaced by Milt Hinton and Al Harewood takes over from Billy Higgins. Throughout, Ike Quebec provides an attentive second voice, commenting on the moods, adding his own feelings, and playing with straightforward persuasiveness. And Grant Green turns out to be an uncommonly full-bodied, pungent accompanist.
Dodo Greene is impatient with categories. "I just don't fit into any one definition," she says. 'There's gospel in what I do and some jazz and some pop singing, but essentially, the way I sing is just me. Just the way I feel and the way I've lived." Or, as Alfred Lion puts it, "At the base of whatever she does, you can hear the dues Dodo must have paid through the years." And you can also hear the kicks she's had and the in-between times as well as the hard traveling. Dodo is no apprentice hipster. She sings it like it is, like she's known it.