Kathryn Hettel – Cookin’ In The Kitchen With Dinah – A Tribute To Dinah Washington
Critical Sun 2016
17 tracks; 64 minutes
Kathryn Hettel comes from Washington State and this is her third album. Her music straddles jazz and blues, her previous disc Jazz From The Heart (2013) being a collection of jazz standards. This new project was three years in gestation as Kathryn shares her love of Dinah Washington’s music on a varied album which adds horns, strings and other instruments to the core band: Kathryn on vocals, Darrius Willrich on keys, Patrick McDanel on bass, Rick J Bowen on drums (and production) and Kevin Andrew Sutton on guitar. Among the other musicians appearing are Tony Grasso and Kevin Sibley on trumpet, Brian Kent, Harold Fox and Jacob Zimmerman on sax, Naomi Siegel on trombone, Jim McLaughlin on harmonica, Jacques Willis on vibes, Sandy Carter on pedal steel, Joe Daria on Hammond B3 and Mai L Pittard on strings.
With such a wide selection of songs it is only possible to highlight a few for discussion. “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” is a great rolling blues with superb sax from Brian Kent alongside Kathryn’s strong vocal and opener “Good Daddy Blues” features Jim’s harp on one of the tracks with the highest blues quotient. “Birth Of The Blues” bounces along well with trombone and clarinet featured. The standard “You Don’t Know What Love Is” has been recorded by Billie Holliday and Nina Simone as well as Dinah and this delicate version has vibes behind Kathryn’s vocals, Tony Grasso’s muted trumpet solo beautifully poised in Miles Davis fashion. Buddy Johnson’s “Since I Fell For You” is similarly well-known and here Kathryn uses strings with the basic rhythm section and piano – simple but effective – as is the arrangement of Bennie Benjamin and George Weiss’ “I’ll Never Be Free”.
Dinah also wrote songs and here we hear four of her compositions, including “Bad Luck”, again featuring Brian’s brooding tenor, and “Showtime” which is more of a jazzy piece with another fine trumpet solo from Tony. Dinah was one of those singers who could ‘sing the phone book’ including being at home with sassy songs like Billy Moore Jr’s “Baby Get Lost”in which she declares her intention to drop an unsatisfactory man: “I’ve got so many men that they’re standing in line”. Kathryn ventures into soul territory with her version of Titus Turner’s “Soulville” and closes the album with a moving solo piano and vocal interpretation of Clyde Otis’ “This Bitter Earth”, demonstrating both her own range and that of Dinah Washington to whom this album makes a fine tribute.
Far from straight blues, this album blends blues, jazz and Tin Pan Alley influences to good effect. One result is that it makes this reviewer want to explore Dinah Washington’s music more deeply which probably means that Kathryn Hettel has succeeded in her objective!