Judy Wexler: Back to the Garden

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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Judy Wexler: Back to the Garden
A glance at the tracks on this album might make one think that it is a well-selected gathering of '60s message tunes from compilation stalwart, Rhino Records. That not being the case, rest assured that Back to the Garden presents those iconic Pop selections so incredibly re- imagined that what we experience could easily be considered "new selections."

Judy Wexler—petite in stature, but tremendously talented and agile in artistry—and her cadre of LA's best, delivers her finest performance and certainly most ambitious album to date. And, given her track record, via five celebrated albums, Back to the Garden —borrowing a 60's adjective— is very "heavy."

Though young when most of these tracks hit the airwaves in chaotic times, Wexler dives fully into the familiar melodic and message content. Jeff Colella & Josh Nelson's unique arrangements and the ensemble's performances brilliantly deliver stunningly new perspectives. "Get Together," originally a more Folk-like side, kicks things off slickly and texturally, and portends different things to come. Joni Mitchell's manifesto about urban development, "Big Yellow Taxi" is the funk-quirky killer champion on this album. "Something's Happening Here" has Wexler, Colella, and team going towards deeper, darker-blue imagery than the original. "Everybody's Talkin' " from "Midnight Cowboy," (United Artists, 1969) is taken slower than normal and has Wexler talking beautifully, followed by a slick Hendrik Meurkens' solo (a nod to Toots Thielemans who performed on the soundtrack).

Wexler's awesome vocal talent, dexterity, and expressive flair lavishly wash across the session. While this was Pop fare in the day, hers is not a Pop voice. Rather, she's a hip vocalist whose tune engagement is paramount. That's quite apparent on "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?" (with a fine Jay Jennings trumpet solo). It would be so easy for a singer to "re-sing" this material. Wexler doesn't. She and the crew have re- ignited it, lending new reflections on Pop gospels.

Back to the Garden is quite a recording. It is an accomplishment and truly an aural "Garden of Earthly Delights."

Track Listing

Get Together; Up on the Roof; American Tune; Big Yellow Taxi; The Times They Are A- Changin'; Since You Asked; For What It's Worth; Everybody's Talkin'; Forever Young; Who Knows Where the Time Goes.


Judy Wexler: voice / vocals; Jeff Colella: piano; Larry Koonse: guitar; Gabe Davis: bass, acoustic; Steve Hass: drums; Bob Thiele, Jr,: guitar, electric; Erin Bentlage: voice / vocals; Danny Janklow: saxophone; Jay Jennings: trumpet; Hendrik Meurkens: harmonica; Sara Caswell: violin; Joel Pargman: violin; Carrie Kennedy: violin; rodney wirtz: viola; Stephanie Fife: cello; Talley Sherwood: voice / vocals.

Album information

Title: Back to the Garden | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Jewel City Jazz

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