IN A BLUE MOOD
Coniece Washington Shades of Shirley Horn
by Ron Weinstock
Shades of Shirley Horn
Poet Seth Washington provides a narration that provides an overview of Shirley Horn, a Washington DC musical icon. It opens vocalist Coniece Washington’s rendition of “Here’s To Life,” one of Shirley Horn’s most famous songs that opens her tribute to Horn. Horn touched her “the first time I heard Shirley Horn sing, I fell in love with her groove and elegance. Due to my military service I never had the opportunity to attend one of her shows but I always carry her sound in my heart.”
While born in New Jersey, Coniece Washington has formed a deep connection to the Washington DC area. After 35 years of military service she has focused on her musical career as a singer, songwriter, and producer. Washington produced this CD. She is former member of the renowned Washington Performing Arts Society Men & Women of the Gospel Choir and can be seen performing at various venues in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area, including Blues Alley, Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, Twins Jazz, Mr. Henry’s, and Westminster Presbyterian Church Friday Night Jazz.
For this recording, she has put together a marvelous studio band of some excellent Washington DC musicians that include Vince Evans: piano; Wes Biles: bass; and Jc Jefferson: drums. Also appearing on selected tracks are Kevin Kojo Prince: percussion; Thad Wilson: trumpet; Carl Carrington: flute and David B. Cole: guitar. There is an elegance to Evans’ accompaniment to Seth Washington’s introduction to “Here’s To Life,” before Washington enters with a marvelous vocal the hints at Horn’s recording. The rhythm section plays a light accompaniment (drummer Jefferson’s soft touch is noteworthy).
While Shirley Horn is a dominant influence on Washington, Coniece has through years of performing (while in the military and after) developed a delightful, personal approach displayed in the 12 songs here. Some songs were penned by Horn, while others are others from the American songbook. There is the light swing of “Get Out of Town” with clean, precise phrasing and melodious voice; the breezy samba feel of “How Am I To Know“; and the wistfulness expressed in her cover of Louis Jordan’s “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying.” Thad Wilson’s crying muted trumpet complements the softly delivered vocal on a marvelous blues performance. Wilson also plays a melodic solo on the swinging “I Just Found Out About Love,” that closes this recording.
Washington’s understated, restrained approach provides certain appeal to the standard, “Our Love Is Here To Stay.” She delivers a sultry rendition of Little Willie John’s hit “Fever.” On Jobim’s “Dindi,” percussionist Kevin Kojo Prince adds spice to the accompaniment, while flutist Carrington and guitarist Cole add support to another Brazilian flavored performance, “Once I Loved.” It is a delight to hear guitarist Cole, best known as a blues artist, playing a thoughtful, precise solo that is followed by a lovely flute solo to enhance Washington’s delightful vocal.
With “Shades of Shirley,” Coniece Washington has produced not only a wonderful tribute, but a recording that shows her to be a very charming singer with strong backing by Vince Evans and the musicians heard here. She will be celebrating the release of this recording at the Phillips Collection on Saturday, June 1, part of the DC Jazz Festival’s Friends & Family Day at the Museum that is located a few blocks from the Dupont Circle Metro.