Jazz requires a certain degree of commitment. It's not a genre that gets featured during any of the award shows. Jazz artists don't get to have microphone or wardrobe malfunctions during New Year's Eve progams on live television. Jazz songs don't show up on video games and has largely vanished from film. Even movies which purport to be influenced by jazz (Whiplash, La La Land, Miles Ahead) are long on drama and short on the music itself.
As 2017 begins, don't sleep on one of the best debuts of 2016; Back To Your Heart, an earth and earnest debut from Lindsey Webster. Webster announced herself in 2015 with "Fool Me Once," a soulful original that went to Number One on Billboard's smooth jazz charts and pulled off the not-too-shabby feat of being the first vocal-driven song to reach the top since Sade's "Soldier of Love in 2010.
It's a good time for Webster. There's a lot of talented young'uns like Ashleigh Smith, Morgan James, Esperanza Spalding, and when you're vying for the limited air space and resources set aside for jazz, you'd better be good as well as committed. Lindsey Webster is good and she is committed.
Deviating from the safe route, Webster doesn't fall back on tried-and-true tricks such as mining the Great American Songbook for gold, covering last year's pop hit, or loading up on guest stars. Kirk Whalum wanders in to blow a short sax solo and wanders back out never to heard again on Back To Your Heart. All you get is Webster, her voice, her songs and a tight band taking its time on 11 tracks.
This makes for a honest and open listening experience. "Back To Your Heart" is the lead-off single and it's good, real good, but "Where Do You Want To Go" is smoky hot. It's sexy and it's cool and it's hot all at the same time, but never is it obvious or tacky. It's how grown folks talk to each other when they're feeling frisky, not freaky.
The album sags a bit past the halfway point with a couple of tunes that might have benefited from an outside producer's touch, but odds are good, that wasn't in the budget. No problem. Webster and /producer/co-songwriter, Keith Slattery, who also plays keyboards, have come up with a dynamic and emotional debut. Webster is soulful, authentic and belongs on the short list of new talents keeping the tradition alive and taking it to the next level.
Back To Your Heart; Where Do You Want To Go; I Know You Well; Those Three Words; One At A Time; On Our Way; Somehow; Living A Lie; Ain’t It Funny; Next To Me; Fast and Slow
Lindsay Webster: lead and background vocals; Keith Slattery: keyboard; Mike DeMicco: guitar; Fred Doumbe: bass; Don Hickey: drums; Foluso Mimy: percussion; Tony DePaolo: guitar (4, 11); Ken Gioffre: sax, tenor sax (6, 9); Kirk Whalum: sax (5); Jay Collins: baritone sax, horn arrangement (9); Joe Fiedler: trombone (9); Chris Pasin: trumpet (9)
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