Toni Lynn Washington
Itís My Turn Now
Tone Cool 1163
Because blues journalists seem to write about blues men to the exclusion of blues grrls, we are called sexists by editor grrls. The nerve! Truth is there is no abundance of female recording artists on the blues scene, and an outright paucity of any making CDs as good as this sophomore outing from Toni Lynn Washington.
Itís a work with elements of í40s West Coast R&B and Basie-esque (albeit pared-down) jazz, but thankfully it lacks the sheen of self-conscious mannerism that screws up many horn-oriented projects. To its credit, the music this band builds is more than the sum of its influences. Same story for TLW; she comes more from Sarah Vaughan/Dinah Washington than from standard blues screecher turf, but that doesnít exactly sum her up. Her voice is a pleasingly textured alto, as convincing on lowdown blues ("Iím Leaving You") as on swingers ("Ainít Gonna Cry No More," "Just Around the Corner"). Her phrasing and good diction make a hit of "You Can Stay But the Noise Must Go," which is as it should be because the words to this Johnny "Guitar" Watson gem are so engaging it deserves a good reading.
TLW is backed excellently by a sextet that offers plenty of dry-toned, agile sax from Paul Ahlstrand and stinging guitar from Tim Gearan. Gearan penned three tunes, including the witty and well-constructed "Paycheck in My Pocket," that you might categorize as "soul-pop." Harrowing by comparison is keyboardist Bruce Bearsí "Itís Too Late," redolent of wet backstreets and furnished apartments. TLW puts a lot of power into this number but does so without gasket-blowing.
Her tact and control might not appeal to listeners who want a singer to put near-hysterics in every syllable. So be it. TLW makes more art with tone and a nudgeĖwink turn of phrase than many ladies in the blues arena will make in a careerful of screams.
1996ís Blues at Midnight was Toni Lynn Washingtonís first CD and it was well-received, but this oneís far, far better.
ó Tim Schuller