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Judy Wexler: Dreams & Shadows

Jim Santella By

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Blessed to have an ocean's share of jazz singers on board, California remains home to some of the best. When Judy Wexler studied classical piano and then theater, the seeds of jazz had already been sown into her psyche. It was a natural progression: partly because she lived just a block up from San Francisco's legendary Keystone Korner, and partly because the skills that she'd already mastered blend so well into jazz singing.

Along with a crew of Southern California jazz stalwarts, Wexler applies her golden-throated soprano voice to this program of melodies with aplomb. Her vocalese marries with Jeff Colella's piano lines on "In Love in Vain" for a spot-on adventure that runs her vocal range from the top of Mount Hollywood to the shores of Sunset Beach. Agile and accurate, she expresses the song's message clearly through its lyrics as well as through her acrobatic binge.

She contrasts that varied adventure with "Photograph," which allows her voice to meander solemnly with piano and cello through a torrid affair. Wexler remains equally at ease with a slow ballad as with an up-tempo romp. Throughout the session, she's able to let things run free and natural because her sidemen work so well with her. Double bassist Darek Oles, pianists Colella and Alan Pasqua, drummers Steve Hass and Joe LaBarbera, trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos and saxophonist Bob Sheppard provide mutual support that puts her session on top. Through many portions of her program, Wexler blends her voice with the ensemble as if it were one of the instruments. On "If I Only Had a Brain," for example, she weaves around Sheppard's soprano as if the two were twins.

Songs by Elvis Costello, Blossom Dearie, Frank Rosolino and Burt Bacharach complete her program with the strength of jazz lions. From the blue of Hollywood and Vine at midnight to the sand-colored tan of Santa Monica and Malibu, her program reflects the variety that jazz has to offer. By closing with lyrics to "Blue Daniel," she pairs with Tollak Ollestad's harmonica for a sojourn that guarantees remembrance. Her first album, Easy on the Heart, opened the door for this talented jazz singer. Dreams & Shadows applies the cement that binds her to an audience fortunate to have her.

Track Listing: Comes Love; Dreams & Shadows (Delilah); In Love In Vain; Photograph; Spooky; If I Only Had A Brain; Almost Blue; Bye Bye Country Boy; Pent Up House; One Less Bell To Answer; Don't Be On The Outside; Summer Is Gone; Life's A Lesson (Blue Daniel).

Personnel: Judy Wexler: vocals; Alan Pasqua: piano; Jeff Colella: piano; Darek Oles: double-bass; Steve Hass: drums; Joe LaBarbera: drums; Bob Sheppard: bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Gilbert Castellanos: trumpet; Tollak Ollestad: harmonica; Stefanie Fife: cello.

Title: Dreams & Shadows | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Jazzed Media

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