For the past few years, Barbara Morrison, now 67, has been touring with I Wanna Be Loved, her one-woman—and one-man, with Jay Jackson guesting as Brook Benton—tribute to Dinah Washington. This album could be considered a quasi-soundtrack. It omits Washington’s trademark hits, her Top 10 duets with Benton and the raunchier numbers that were her stock-in-trade in the early-to-mid 1950s, but covers various standards, most associated with Dinah across her too-brief career. As on her two previous Savant releases, Morrison is teamed with tenor saxophonist Houston Person, pianist Stuart Elster, bassist Richard Simon and drummer Lee Spath.
Like Washington, Morrison is a blues-steeped singer blessed with brassy jazz intrepidity. She opens with a wailing “Perdido” and ventures beyond the Washington songbook for an appropriately shimmering, midtempo “Shiny Stockings” and a sinewy “Work Song.” Across seven of the remaining tracks, Morrison and company opt for mellower grooves, serving up tender readings of “I’ll Close My Eyes,” “Make Me a Present of You,” “Please Send Me Someone to Love,” “Skylark” and the title tune, plus a light, sparkling “This Time the Dream’s on Me.” But Morrison best captures Washington’s sass and verve on the album’s penultimate track, a bracing, staccato “September in the Rain” closely modeled on the Queen of the Blues’ landmark 1960 version, though with plenty of room for all four band members to stretch out.