Wesla Whitfield, a singer of uncommon talent, taste, musicianship and courage, died yesterday in St. Helena, California. Her husband and accompanist of more than three decades, the pianist Mike Greensill, announced her passing. She had been under treatment for bladder cancer and was recently in hospice care but died at home. She was 70. I once wrote,
Whitfield is often billed as a cabaret singer…but with her time sense, phrasing and inflection, the fuzzy border between cabaret and jazz disappears.
Here, in November of 2015, she sings two songs by Harry Warren at a memorial service for her record producer and friend Orrin Keepnews. Her accompanists are Mike Greensill, bassist John Wiitala, drummer Lorca Hart and the Kronos String Quartet.
Over the years, Ms. Whitfield and Mr. Greensill have been the subjects of several Rifftides posts. To read some of them, go here.
For a thorough review of Wesla Whitfield’s life, including the incident that put her in a wheelchair, and for an assessment of her talent, see Daniel Slotkin’s article in today’s New York Times.