Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

WHITFIELD, Weslia

(b 15 Sep. '47, Santa Maria CA) Cabaret singer with a relaxed and delicate voice, always clearly enunciating: one of today's finest interpreters of 'the Great American popular song', which benefits from thoughtful interpretation rather than being oversold la Las Vegas. (The name is pronounced Wesla.) She knew she would be a singer from age one or two; early infl. incl. Nat King Cole, Frankie Laine, Ray Charles, Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney. She began formal training with piano lessons at age seven, classical voice study at 14; turned pro '70 with the San Francisco Opera Chorus, leaving '75 to work as a singing cocktail waitress (a short- lived disaster: no trouble with the singing part, but she couldn't keep the drink orders straight). She has been in a wheelchair since being shot by a teenaged hoodlum c'77. She met pianist Mike Greensill '81 when he asked to sit in during a gig; they married '86 and formed their own label, Myoho Records, the first release Just For A Thrill '87 featuring Al Cohn, followed by Until The Real Thing Comes Along and Nobody Else But Me '87--8. Lucky To Be Me '89 came out on Landmark (she was the new label's first vocalist); engagements at the Plush Room resulted in Live In San Francisco '91. Beautiful Love and Seeker Of Wisdom And Truth '92--3 were on Cabaret, followed by a return to Landmark for Nice Work '94; Teach Me Tonight '97 appeared on High Note. In the autumn of '93 through '95 she did three-month engagements at the Algonquin Hotel NYC. On the age-old question of who is a jazz singer, she said in an interview, 'I am not a jazz singer because I do not play with the melody or rhythms much ... I'm sure I'll never be a true jazz singer, but I attempt to move toward it daily ... And I have yet to meet even one singer who considers him/herself to be a jazz singer.'