Whitfield, known for her mellow, swinging and often optimistic vocals, has played choice cabarets around the country and even sang in her own Off-Broadway cabaret show, Life Upon the Wicked Stage, in 1998.
Piano and arrangements are by Whitfield's husband and creative partner, Mike Greensill. Orrin Keepnews and Greensill are the producers of the disc, which landed in stores in June. The Mike Greensill Octet (and his Quartet, on some tracks) features Gary Foster on clarinet, flute and saxophone.
Respected for their commitment to the American songbook — and their jazzy, rich spin on it — Whitfield and Greensill flirt with Porter, Bricusse and Newley, Cahn and Styne, Bacharach and David, the Gershwins, Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Mancini and Mercer and more in the new disc.
The 13 tracks on "Livin' on Love" include "This Can't Be Love," "Love Is Here to Stay," "East of the Sun," "Pure Imagination," "For All We Know," "Get Out of Town," "Once in a While," "The Gentleman Is a Dope," "Alfie," "I'm Glad There Is You," "Do I Hear a Waltz?," "I've Heard That Song Before," "Whistling Away the Dark."
For more information, visit www.weslawhitfield.com. *
New for the singer in 1998 was the spelling of her first name, which used to be spelled "Weslia" and was always supposed to be pronounced "Wesla," as it is among family and friends. But after years of people calling her Wes-lee-uh (because of the obvious spelling) she finally changed it to avoid confusion. Most of her dozen or so recordings bear the name Weslia Whitfield. She is now officially Wesla.
As early as 1990, Whitfield was opening for Michael Feinstein concerts, singing a hip, optimistic version of "The Trolley Song." Her early independent recordings are harder to come by, but such discs as "Lucky to Be Me" and "High Standards" are common in record stores' cabaret or vocal sections, particularly on the coasts.
Whitfield's Off-Broadway debut, Life Upon the Wicked Stage, played Oct. 13-Nov. 1, 1998. Her following in New York is rooted in her 1993 debut at (and subsequent returns to) the Algonquin Hotel. Among her tales in her Off Broadway show was the rarely discussed, 1977 random shooting that left her unable to walk. In Wicked Stage, Whitfield again worked with longtime pianist arranger Mike Greensill. Whitfield rose from singing waitress to singing for San Francisco Opera and then to cabarets and boites around the country.