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11/04/11

Yvonne Washington With Gary Norian
Trust In Me
Mercator Records

There have been plenty of gospel-trained singers who’ve made a successful transition to secular material. And there have been lots of excellent jazz albums built around just voice and piano. Trust in Me, pairing Houston-based vocalist Yvonne Washington and pianist/arranger Gary Norian, scores on both counts.

Though Yvonne Washington’s career dates to the 1960s, and she has carved out a significant presence within the Houston scene since the mid-’70s, this is only her second CD release, but is clearly the result of accumulated experience and keen musicianship. True to her gospel roots, she is, where appropriate, a top-flight rafter rattler. But she is equally good at coiling inside a delicate ballad or tender lullaby. Her downy readings of “Pure Imagination,” “My Funny Valentine” and the lovely Norian composition “Your Dreams Are on Their Way” are prime examples. And when she decides to turn up the romantic heat, as on a scorching “The Look of Love” and near-equally fervent interpretations of “The Nearness of You” and “What a Difference a Day Makes,” she does so with unbridled sensuality. It’s tempting, given her power and authority, to liken Washington to Aretha Franklin, but stylistically she’s much closer to Sarah Vaughan.

As for Norian, he seems an ideal companion on this multifarious journey. Never does he upstage or eclipse Washington—or allow himself to be overshadowed. More important, his ability to gauge the emotional pulse of each song is as precise as hers, making this a most simpatico—and exhilarating—partnership.

Originally published in October 2011
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