|All Artists: Weslia Whitfield, Mike Greensill|
Title: Live in San Francisco
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Number of Discs: 1
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Powerful songstress with perfect pitch, pacing, and control.
Mary Whipple | New England | 07/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wesla Whitfield (formerly Weslia Whitfield) is a cabaret singer of the Great American Songbook who has it all. Here in this 1991 CD, listeners share in a live performance, appreciating her wit, ability to kid around with her audience, and her frank opinions about songwriters, as she cheerfully chats with the lucky people who attended this performance. At the same time, they will appreciate her clear, strong voice, her perfect pitch, her phrasing, and a control rarely seen among singers who have the power to really belt out a song. Her interpretations of standards, ranging from Kurt Weill's "Here I'll Stay" and "Lost in the Stars, to Duke Ellington's "I Didn't Know About You," Cole Porter's "Just One of Those Things," and George and Ira Gershwin's "Soon," showcase her ability to give new interpretations to familiar songs, often through slowing down the pace and dramatically changing the phrasing.
Always emotional in her interpretations, Whitfield's voice ranges from a whispery softness to a powerful vibrato in "Photographs," and gives poignant new meaning to the Ethel Merman song from Gypsy, "Some People," in which her voice is easily as strong as Merman's but much more melodic and never screechy. Her control is particularly noticeable in "Guys and Dolls," in which her diction allows her to sing at a noticeably faster pace than normal. By the time she gets to the section beginning with "What's Playing at the Roxy?" she has reached a comfortable singing speed faster than most of us can even think, much less speak or sing. Aided by her husband/music director Michael Greensill on piano and Dean Reilly on bass, Westfield's voice is showcased by the very simple piano accompaniments and a subtle bass beat, allowing her to sing and interpret songs which perfectly compliment her voice and play up its unique qualities.
With a lovely vibrato and the ability to hold a note seemingly forever, Westfield is especially effective in her ballads, songs like "This Time the Dream's on Me," which also features some wonderful jazz riffs on piano, and "You're Nearer," by Rodgers and Hart, which she describes as "the saddest song ever written." Gershwin's "Soon," Harold Rome's "Along With Me," and the uptempo "Love Is a Necessary Evil," full of key changes and switches from major to minor and back, also feature piano solos which not only enhance the songs but provide effective counterpoint for Westfield's classically trained voice. A modern singer whose CD is praised by Tony Bennett, Margaret Whiting, Bobby Short, and Michael Feinstein, Westfield follows in the tradition of these legends and is well on her way to creating an important new legend of her own. Mary Whipple"