Jam Session recorded August 14 1954 in Los Angeles
Bob Shad produced this session
Recorded at the start of Dinah Washington's climb to fame, 1954's Dinah Jams was taped live in front of a studio audience in Los Angeles. While Washington is in top form throughout, effortlessly working her powerful, blues-based voice on both ballads and swingers, the cast of star soloists almost steals the show. In addition to drummer Max Roach, trumpeter Clifford Brown, and other members of Brown and Roach's band at the time - tenor saxophonist Harold Land, pianist Richie Powell, and bassist George Morrow - trumpeters Maynard Ferguson and Clark Terry, alto saxophonist Herb Geller, and pianist Junior Mance also contribute to the session. Along with extended jams like "Lover Come Back to Me," "You Go to My Head," and "I'll Remember April" - all including a round of solos - there are shorter ballad numbers such as "There Is No Greater Love" and "No More," the last of which features excellent muted, obbligato work by Brown. Other solo highlights include Land's fine tenor solo on "Darn That Dream" and Geller's alto statement on the disc's standout Washington vocal, "Crazy." And even though she's in the midst of these stellar soloists, Washington expertly works her supple voice throughout to remain the star attraction, even matching the insane, high-note solo blasts trumpeter Ferguson expectedly delivers. A fine disc. Newcomers, though, should start with more accessible and more vocal-centered Washington titles like The Swingin' Miss D or The Fats Waller Songbook, both of which feature top arrangements by Quincy Jones.
All Music Guide
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The Jam Session is essential in jazz. Musicians gather to play with (and sometimes against) each other, music that's created then and there, warts and all, and always now. Even when they play familiar standards, it's always new. Every solo unique. Every jam unique.
This jam, recorded August 14, 1954, in Los Angeles, was one of the most memorable ever assembled. Bob Shad produced the session, recorded before a studio audience, with a working band as the nucleus, the quintet of trumpeter Clifford Brown and drummer Max Roach with bassist George Morrow, pianist Richie Powell, and tenor saxist Harold Land. They'd only just begun to record for Emarcy two weeks earlier. August 2nd - 6th, the quintet recorded, and August 11th, Clifford and Max jammed with some other young lions around LA, including Herb Geller, soon to be named the New Star alto saxist in Down Beat, Herb Geller was featured again August 14th, but the instrumental highlight was the confluence (and conflagration) of trumpets - Maynard Ferguson, Clark Terry, and Clifford Brown - and the heart and soul of the jam was Dinah Washington.
She wasn't a jazz singer like Ella or Sarah. She didn't scat. She didn't sing around the lyrics or the melody so much. Yet her feeling for rhythm and the blues, and the very sound of her voice, were just as essential in jazz. She'd already recorded for many years with Mercury, but 1954 was a real turning point and her greatest years (and greatest hits) were about to come. And this session was unlike anything Dinah ever recorded.
She brought along her regular pianist, Junior Mance, and bassist, Keter Betts, but Dinah jams first with only Max at the drums whipping up a Latinesque groove for "I've Got You Under My Skin," what then becomes a straightahead threesome of trumpets: first Clark, then Maynard and Clifford, Dinah returns for a romantic interlude before the final fanfare - and it's a wonder everything else wasn't anti-climactic.
"No More" features Clifford's exquisite counterpoint to Dinah's heartful voice. Dinah sings "You Go to My Head" at first freely, with only her cats, then Max again plays Latinesque for the song, sraightahead for the solos: Herb, Junior, Clark, Harold, Clifford, Keter, and once more Dinah. "Lover Come Back to Me" is blowing from the first with solos from Clark, Harold, Clifford, some bass interplay, Herb, Maynard, Max, and some piano interplay before Dinah shouts the finale full-blast like Jimmy Rushing.
"Come Rain or Come Shine" offers calm after the storm - though her soul-fulness nonetheless excites shouts from the audience. "I know a good one," she says, then sings "There Is No Greater Love" as a last testament.
Dinah Washington often recorded with jazz arrangers and jazz soloists throughout her years with Mercury -but no other session generated so much jazz excitement as Dinah Jams.
- Michael Bourne - Host of "Sirgen Unlimited" (WBGO in Newark) and "The American Jazz Radio Festival" (NationalPublic Radio)