Picture the grand piano, acoustic bass and drum set on the small stage in the center of a dark, smoke-filled bar. A lone spotlight peers through the shadows while reflections of candlelight bounce off the ice-filled glasses resting atop the tiny round tables shoved together to make room for those young and old--eagerly awaiting her cool jazz stylings. Shirley Witherspoon's vocal stylings could convince the hardest rockin' roller that a bit of cool, smooth jazz can bring an exciting bit of magic to the soul!
Shirley Witherspoon's new album, "Magic and Love" is a wonderful CD! Her vocal stylings are superb, and the musicians accompanying her on this album are truly gifted!
Witherspoon tugs at the heartstrings as she soulfully sings, "You Don't Know What Love Is" (Raye-DePaul). She paints the solemn lyrics with a haunting, mellow sweetness:
"You don't know what love is
'til you learn the meaning of the blues
until you've loved a love you've had to lose
you don't know what love is."
Kenny Werner's beautiful piano playing gently flows into Witherspoon's cool, sultry vocals. He plays the keys with a gentle touch, fluid grace and solid technique. Gordon Johnson , on bass and Jay Epstein, on drums round off the talented rhythm section. They don't overpower, but rather subtly fall into the music-- anticipating, then backing off, building on each other as they play. They sound like they've played together for years!
Special appearances by Jean "Toots" Thieleman on harmonica, Jimmy Heath and Ronny Loew on saxophone, and Gene Adams on trumpet also add to the fine quality of this album! Thieleman's rich, mellow tone on the harmonica shines on "It Had to be You" by Gus Kahn and Isham Jones. Heath and Loew add some sweet sax playing on, "T'aint Nobody's Business if I Do", "Night Train Blues" and "Mama Treat Your Daughter Mean".
Witherspoon not only shines on melancholy melodies, but also spits out some delightful, energetic scat singing in "Mama, Treat Your Daughter Mean!" She also makes, "T'aint Nobody's Business if I Do" her own. Witherspoon sings the song wonderfully! Her style brings to mind the late great Billie Holiday. (No wonder Witherspoon sang with the Duke Ellington Band!)
Shirley Witherspoon is a wonderful talent, and she's right here in Minnesota! If given the chance, catch this lady in action! For now, you can pick up her new CD, "Magic and Love". Sit back, relax and get caught up in Shirley Witherspoon's musical magic!
Web site: www.shirleywitherspoon.com
Hot Springs Records: www.hotspringsrecords.com
Steve Heckler, Executive Producer
Recorded at: Creation Studios, Mpls. Minnesota
This review is copyright © 1999 by Lisa Gault, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.