Magic & Love
Shirley Witherspoon is a veteran of the music world; she sang at clubs as a child and eventually performed with the Duke Ellington orchestra at Nixon’s inauguration. Magic & Love, the solo album from the woman for which the governor of Minnesota officially declared January 26, 1989, as “Shirley Witherspoon Day,” gracefully elaborates on the ranges of singing she can skillfully and beautifully accomplish. With a soulful voice a few notches deeper than Billie Holiday’s, Witherspoon takes on songs such as Gershwin’s “My Ship” and Ellington/Russell’s “Do Nothing Til You Hear From Me” with an air of professional class and elegance.
Backed by a jazz rhythm trio and occasionally joined by guest brass, Witherspoon takes her time through the ten tracks on Magic & Love, with the music slowly pacing to allow for her voice to float and accent, keeping smooth without getting anxious. With music suitable to sitting with closed eyes, Witherspoon displays rich blues as well as she does jazz, like on “Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean,” a swingy quiet number with a vocal blues pattern that she accents nicely with a slight appropriate growl. While her delivery is generally devoid of many vocal stretches, she conveys the music’s essence in her own solid and middle-line way. A beautiful piece of work from one of jazz’s vocal gems, Shirley Witherspoon’s album is simply pretty.