Denise Perrier Teaches Us Tonight

 Above Denise Perrier : Photo © Walt Atkins

Denise Perrier

Unforgettable, A Tribute to Dinah Washington

Oct. 18, 2014

Joe Henderson Lab, SFJAZZ

San Francisco’s own Denise Perrier recently treated her SFJAZZ audience to an exquisite evening of Dinah Washington classics in the very intimate Joe Henderson Lab. Her “Unforgettable, A Tribute to Dinah Washington” was presented with a graceful spirit. After the first song, Ms. Perrier removed her mink stole to get comfortable for the first of her sold-out shows. Her version of “Teach Me Tonight” was delivered with the understated sensualism that made it one of my favorite Dinah songs.

The elegant Ms. Perrier sang “What a Difference A Day Makes” with the confident verve that propelled this composition to a Top 4 hit on the 1959 pop charts for Ms. Washington.  Denise Perrier’s clear contralto voice covered the full range of Dinah Washington material with ease and confidence. The band, led by the talented Tammy L. Hall, supported the singer with smoldering sax play from Ylonda Nickell; and with dependable double bass and drum work from Gary Brown and Deszon Claiborne, respectively.

Denise Perrier : Photo © Walt Atkins
Denise Perrier : Photo © Walt Atkins

Denise Perrier first met Dinah Washington at the Sportsman’s Lounge in Oakland. At that time, Ms. Washington asked if she was “studying her.” Then Dinah asked her to have a drink, and they became friends. Ms. Perrier shared her stories from Dinah Washington’s “illustrious career,” including a joke about a talking dog. During a big audition, the pet was asked to read a newspaper headline but did not respond. Afterward, at home, the dog told his disappointed owner, “You know damn well I can’t read.”

Ylonda Nickell, Tammy L.. Hall and Denise Perrier : Photo © Walt Atkins
Ylonda Nickell, Tammy L.. Hall and Denise Perrier : Photo © Walt Atkins

Ms. Perrier told her audience that  if Dinah liked you, she would give you ”trinkets.” But if you ticked her off, she would want them back. Ms. Washington once gave her a pair of gorgeous green emerald shoes to complement the dress she was wearing for a show. She wore them until the shoes were “lost in a trunk somewhere between Hong Kong and Vietnam.”

Denise Perrier‘s “Unforgettable, A Tribute to Dinah Washington” richly celebrated the artistry of the legendary pop/R&B/jazz vocalist. However, the 60-minute set passed waaayy too quickly. Time does indeed pass when you are having fun.

Personnel: Denise Perrier, vocals; Ylonda Nickell, alto saxophone; Deszon Claiborne, drums; Tammy L. Hall, piano; Gary Brown, double bass

Set List: Blues Medley |All of Me | Dinah Medley |Teach Me Tonight | Sometimes I’m Happy | What a Difference A Day Makes | Sunny Side of The Street | Big Long Slidin’ Thing | Don’t Touch Me | Good Ol’ Wagon | Lover Come Back To Me