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Thursday November 27, 2014
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Barbara Morrison

 

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early and performed on the radio before she was even a teenager; in the 1960s, however, many kids like her loved Motown rather than jazz, and Morrison was captivated by the singing of Gladys Knight and other popular singers of the day. In 1971 she moved to Los Angeles, and it was there that she discovered the blues and jazz.

Her strong grounding in the blues is always apparent, even when she is singing a lush ballad, but she also has a wide-ranging knowledge of American popular song. Morrison's vocal talents and good musical training, combined with a keen sense of tradition, led to the development of a highly idiosyncratic vocal style, with a deeply personal, rich sound. The great jazz pianist Junior Mance once said of her, "She's got one of the best sounds since Dinah Washington." And he should know, because he toured and recorded with the self-styled Queen of the Blues early in his career. Indeed, Morrison is greatly enamored of Washington's singing and has developed a show named "I Wanna be Loved: Stories of Dinah Washington."

Morrison likes to create complex contexts for her own voice. In addition to her homage to Washington, she has developed a show based on the songs of Harold Arlen, composer of "Over the Rainbow" and around 500 other songs, and another entitled "Howlin' Blues and Dirty Dogs," on the life and music of the classic blues belter Big Mama Thornton.

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