Vocalist Judy Wexler makes her recording debut with Easy on the Heart. Wexler is quickly becoming a staple of the Los Angeles jazz scene and, like many other jazz artists in Southern California, deserving of better recognition. Joining her are other LA jazz stalwarts like saxophonist Bob Sheppard, pianist Alan Pasqua (a former member of Tony Williams' Lifetime), bassist Darek Oles, and trumpeter Steven Campos.
Instead of the usual standards, Wexler does well by choosing some lesser-known jazz songs, as well as a couple of pop tunes. Her assertive, no-frills delivery is a dominant and pleasant feature in her singing, as it focuses our attention on the clear and lucid storytelling. The extras in her style are subtle, delicate, well-timed, purposeful, and a testament to her good taste.
Playful and lovely songs like "Nobody Else But Me" and Oscar Brown Jr.'s "Humdrum Blues" are nicely countered with more morose features like Abbey Lincoln's "I'm in Love" and the album's best piece, "Tell Him I Said Hello." Wexler's forte is jazz, though she delves into pop tunes like the Beatles' "In My Life" and Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right." Both are satisfactory, though they lack the dynamic range of the livelier jazz fare. On the album's final offering, for example, Irving Berlin's "I Got Lost in His Arms," she clearly knows what liberties to take, what lines to stretch and, more importantly, how to enchant us fully.
While this album more than meets any demands of a debut effort, here's hoping time and experience challenge Wexler to greater artistry and individuality. Certainly, as heard on Easy on the Heart, her skills are more than ready for such a project.
Personnel: Judy Wexler: vocals; Alan Pasqua: piano; Darek Oles: bass; Tim Pleasant: drums; Bob
Sheppard: sax; Steven Campos: trumpet.