Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Barbara Morrison: A Sunday Kind of Love

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

While no female vocalist will likely ever match Dinah Washington’s brilliance at blending jazz and blues, Barbara Morrison has come closest. At age 60, she continues to rival Washington’s beam-rattling slither and thrust, though on gentler selections there’s the enticing suggestion of Billie Holiday blended with the late-career majesty of Maxine Sullivan.

In 2005, Morrison teamed with tenor saxophonist Houston Person for a killer live recording at the Dakota in Minneapolis. At last reunited, they remain an ideal match, whether softly tracing the heartache of “I Cover the Waterfront” or emblazoning a Dinah-worthy reading of the title tune. Ably assisted by what Morrison refers to as her “automatic A team”-pianist Stuart Elster, bassist Richard Simon and drummer Lee Spath-the pair proves delightfully unpredictable across their 12-track playlist. They sandwich a swirling “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” between creamy treatments of “My Romance” and “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons,” and offset a growly “I’m Just a Lucky So and So” with an oxymoronically propulsive “Soft Winds” and a deeply moving “Good Morning Heartache.” Most surprising, and delightful, is their transformation of deejay Jim Lowe’s mid-’50s novelty hit, “The Green Door,” into a sly, bluesy cooker in the spirit of Morrison’s one-time boss Ray Charles.

Originally Published