MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, “MOONGLOW”
Welcome to Afterglow, [a show of vocal jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook], I’m your host, Mark Chilla.
On this episode, I’m turning my spotlight onto 1950s and 60s jazz vocalist Dakota Staton. Staton had a voice that was dynamic: at times soulful and bluesy, other times powerful and gospel-tinged, and other times coquettish and emotional. She’s probably best known for her rendition of the song “The Late, Late Show,” which became a minor hit for her in 1957. This hour, we’ll explore parts of her entire recording career, with a focus on her Capitol Records LPs from the 1950s and 60s.
It’s The Dynamic Dakota Staton, coming up next on Afterglow
MUSIC - DAKOTA STATON, "I CAN'T QUIT YOU BABY"
Dakota Staton showing off her bluesy side with the Willie Dixon blues standard “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” a song originally performed by folks like Otis Rush and Led Zeppelin. That comes from her 1991 album for Muse records titled Darling Please Save Your Love For Me.
MUSIC CLIP - THE GEORGE SHEARING QUINTET, "THE LATE, LATE SHOW"
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, I’m shining my spotlight onto the work of jazz singer Dakota Staton, a dynamic singer who emerged in the wake of Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan in the late 1950s.
Dakota Staton hailed from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was born there on June 3, 1930. She had a multifaceted musical upbringing, which explains her dynamic sound. At times she could sound bluesy and soulful, and other times coquettish and cute.
She was a member of a singing group with her sisters as a child, but also had a formal musical education. She started performing in nightclubs as a teenager, but also became attached to a Broadway style revue program. As a young adult, she sang with a local bandleader, and eventually started performing the club circuit in the midwest before settling in New York.
Around age 23, while in New York, she caught the attention of musician and arranger Dave Cavanaugh, who at the time was working as an A&R man for Capitol Records. He signed her right away. She recorded a few singles, mostly forgettable, but jazz listeners took notice, naming her the one of the most promising young singers in a Down Beat readers poll. She eventually got to record a full-length LP for Capitol. It was called The Late, Late Show, and it featured stripped down jazz arrangements by Van Alexander, known for his work with Ella Fitzgerald. The Late, Late Show became the biggest hit of her career, climbing to number 4 on the charts, and staying in print for over a decade.
Let’s hear a few tracks from her debut album now. We’ll start with the song that she’s most well-known for, the title track from the album. This is Dakota Staton in 1957 with “The Late, Late Show,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - DAKOTA STATON, "THE LATE, LATE SHOW"
MUSIC - DAKOTA STATON, "MISTY"
Two songs from Dakota Staton’s 1957 LP The Late, Late Show, her debut album with Capitol Records. Just now, the Errol Garner and Johnny Burke standard “Misty” and before that, the title track “The Late, Late Show,” written by Roy Alfred and the mysterious “Murray Berlin” (believed to be the pen name of producer Dave Cavanuagh).
Dakota Staton’s follow-up album on the Capitol label came a year later in 1958 with the LP In The Night, a duet album with British pianist George Shearing. It was actually the pianists’ first big collaboration with any major vocalist. He went on to record similar albums with Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, Nancy Wilson and many others. I, in fact, have devoted a whole episode to Shearing’s collaborations with various singers.
The album is a fine one, although Staton only sings on about half of the tracks. I’ll play two songs from that album now, beginning with a bit of a rare number, one that was really only performed by the King Cole Trio before this. This is Dakota Staton and George Shearing with the Bob Emmerich and Ruth Poll song "I'd Love to Make Love to You," on Afterglow.
MUSIC - DAKOTA STATON AND THE GEORGE SHEARING QUINTET, "I'D LOVE TO MAKE LOVE TO YOU"
MUSIC - DAKOTA STATON AND THE GEORGE SHEARING QUINTET, "CONFESSIN' THE BLUES"
Dakota Staton and the George Shearing Quintet in 1958 with two songs. Just now, we heard “Confessin’ The Blues,” one of her first blues songs on record (and certainly not her last). Before that, the rare song “I’d Love To Make Love To You.”
After working with George Shearing, Dakota Staton began to work with arranger Sid Feller for a string of albums for Capitol Records. Feller was one of Capitol’s house arrangers, and worked with Peggy Lee and Dean Martin, but he’s probably best known today for his work with Ray Charles on songs like “Georgia On My Mind” for ABC-Paramount in the 1960s. Their first collaboration was the 1958 album titled Dynamic. And “dynamic” is one of the best descriptions, because it’s really showing off the range of Staton’s style, which is at times silly and cute, other times sultry and soulful, and other times brash and showy.
Let’s hear two tracks from this dynamic album now. First, this is Dakota Staton with Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - DAKOTA STATON, "ANYTHING GOES"
MUSIC - DAKOTA STATON, "WHEN SUNNY GETS BLUE"
Dakota Staton from her 1958 album titled Dynamic. Just now, we heard the ballad “When Sunny Gets Blue,” before that, the showstopper “Anything Goes.”
Dakota Staton’s next album for Capitol Records was another one arranged by Sid Feller, an album titled Time To Swing. This album features a number of players on it, including alto saxophonist Phil Woods. These albums from the late 1950s are really some of her best, most consistent work. It’s a shame they never quite caught on with the public like her debut album The Late, Late Show, but it’s likely that Staton was a victim of poor timing. As the 1960s were approaching, it was hard for an artist of Staton’s style to get any real traction.
Nevertheless, let’s hear two tracks from this fantastic album now. First up, this is Dakota Staton with the Benny Carter song “When Lights Are Low,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - DAKOTA STATON, "WHEN LIGHTS ARE LOW"
MUSIC - DAKOTA STATON, "WILLOW WEEP FOR ME"
A bluesy rendition of the Ann Ronnel ballad “Willow Weep For Me,” performed there by Dakota Staton. Before that, we heard the song “When Lights Are Low.” Both of those tracks come from Staton’s 1959 Capitol album Time To Swing.
We’ll hear more from the dynamic Dakota Staton in just a bit, stay with us.
I’m Mark Chilla. And You’re listening to Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - THE TOMMY FLANAGAN TRIO, "WILLOW WEEP FOR ME"
MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON TRIO, "ANYTHING GOES"
MUSIC CLIP - MILES DAVIS, "WHEN LIGHTS ARE LOW"
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been listening to the work of the dynamic jazz singer Dakota Staton this hour. And where we left off, we were listening to some of her work for Capitol Records in the late 1950s.
She had one more album in the late 1950s, and that was the Sid Feller arranged album More Than The Most! This final album of the decade for Staton (her third with arrangements by Feller) features a much larger big band. The album swings, and Staton sounds as crisp and clean as ever. But mixed in with her jazz and blues tones, you get the glimpse of a pop sensibility in her voice. I almost get a glint of Mary Wells of early Motown fame in her voice at times.
Here is a track from that album now. This is Dakota Staton with the classic Harry Warren and Al Dubin song “September In The Rain,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - DAKOTA STATON, "SEPTEMBER IN THE RAIN"
MUSIC - DAKOTA STATON, "DEDICATED TO YOU"
Dakota Staton in 1959 with “September In The Rain.” That comes from her big band LP titled More Than The Most!
By the time the 1960s began, Dakota Staton recorded a few albums that focused less on big band style swing and more on romantic balladry. Her 1960 album Softly and her 1961 album ‘Round Midnight both feature string and woodwind arrangements by Benny Carter. ‘Round Midnight ended up being her final studio album for Capitol Records, as the label (and much of pop music) started to move in a different stylistic direction.
Let’s hear a ballad from each of those albums now. I’ll follow this up with a live performance around this same time. We’ll start with Dakota Staton in 1960 singing the Sammy Cahn, Saul Chaplin and Hy Zaret song “Dedicated To You,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - DAKOTA STATON, "DON'T EXPLAIN"
MUSIC - DAKOTA STATON, "IS YOU IS, OR IS YOU AIN'T MY BABY"
Dakota Staton, live at Boston’s famous nightclub Storyville, in April, 1961. That was her showing off her bluesy side with Louis Jordan’s “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby.” Norman Simmons is on piano there, and although the rest of the musicians are unknown, it’s believed to be Yusef Lateef on sax. Before that, a couple of ballads from Staton. We heard “Don’t Explain” from her 1961 album ‘Round Midnight and “Dedicated To You” from her 1960 album Softly, both of those songs arranged by Benny Carter.
In the 1960s, Dakota Staton continued to perform live and record in the studio. She performed at the Newport Jazz Festival and made a series of albums for the United Artists label. During this decade, she became one of the many prominent African American figures who converted to Islam, including other jazz musicians like Yusef Lateef and Ahmad Jahmal. She changed her Aliyah Rabia, although she never went by that name professionally. In 1965, she and her husband, jazz trumpeter Talib Dawud, moved briefly to England, and she even recorded an album there called Dakota ‘67.
She moved back to the states in the 1970s, and recorded only a handful of albums intermittently. One such album was the 1973 I Want A Country Man, recorded for the Groove Merchant label. The title song, “Country Man,” written by Staton herself, was not country at all as the name suggests, but rather was a hard-driving blues song. As she continued on in years, the blues became more and more a part of her repertoire, moving further away from the coquettish bounce in her voice from her early years singing for Capitol.
Let’s hear that song now. This is Dakota Staton in 1973 with her original blues song “Country Man,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - DAKOTA STATON, "COUNTRY MAN"
Dakota Staton in 1973 with “Country Man,” an original song. That’s featured on the 2001 CD reissue called Congratulations to Someone.
Although Dakota Staton continued to tour in the 1980s, she didn’t record at all in that decade. In the 1990s, however, she was signed to Muse Records and had a brief late-career Renaissance, recording several more albums over the course of about seven years. Her voice was much darker and weathered—adding yet another layer to her dynamic sound. But as a singer in her 60s, she became an even better interpreter, with a lifetime of experience to draw upon.
To close off this hour, I’ll play a track from her final studio album called A Packet Of Love Letters, recorded in 1996 and released on the HighNote label in 1999. This is Dakota Staton and saxophonist Houston Person with “Trav’lin’ Light,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - DAKOTA STATON, "TRAV'LIN' LIGHT"
Dakota Staton in 1996 with the song “Trav’lin’ Light.” That comes from her album A Packet Of Love Letters, the singer’s final studio album.
Thanks for tuning in to this Dakota Staton edition of Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - COUNT BASIE AND HIS ORCHESTRA, "THE LATE, LATE SHOW"