TONI LYNN WASHINGTON
Whether she’s purring a noirish ode or soaring over a sassy New Orleans-flavored horn line, soul-blues diva Toni Lynn Washington caresses each song, building intensity until the audience is as sweaty and satisfied as the lucky protagonists of her romantic ballads. Most listeners probably know her only from a recent string of Tone-Cool CDs, but she’s a seasoned pro. In the 1950s the underage Washington sang R & B in Boston nightclubs, and in the early 60s she moved to New Orleans, where she recorded the minor hit “Dear Diary” with pianist and arranger Edward Frank. She worked the southern R & B circuit for most of the next ten years, and by the late 60s was performing on USO tours of the U.S. and Far East. In the early 70s she was living in LA and singing with the group Sound, but in the 80s she returned to Boston–where she assembled the nucleus of the band she’s bringing to Chicago, a six-piece group proficient in everything from deep soul and funk to driving, rock-inflected blues. In 1995 Washington began her tenure at Tone-Cool with Blues at Midnight, followed in ’97 by It’s My Turn Now. Her most recent outing, Good Things, features new tunes by herself and her band, including the funky, horn-drenched “Don’t Forget Me” and the ballad “Satisfaction”–the lyrics to which, combined with her fervent, smoldering croon, transmute sexual pleasure into something approximating an existential revelation. She’s expanded her style to embrace jazzy remakes of standards like Ruth Brown’s 1954 hit “Oh What a Dream” and Percy Mayfield’s sardonic “We Don’t See Eye to Eye,” but the record’s brightest moment is a cover of the O.V. Wright classic “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry”: rather than emulate Wright’s tormented scream, Washington delivers this meditation on the vagaries of love in a spellbinding near whisper, abetted by Bruce Bears’s churchy organ playing. Friday, 9:30 PM, Famous Dave’s, 739 N. Clark; 312-266-2400.