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156

Deborah Winters: Lovers After All

Dan Bilawsky By

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Placing vocalists under a specific, descriptive heading can be limiting in some ways, but it also shines a light on their greatest strengths. Singer Joe Williams—of Count Basie fame—resented being labeled as a "blues singer," since he possessed great range and felt that this tag had suggestions of racism behind it; few would argue, however, that his strongest body of work falls into that category.

Vocalist Deborah Winters—like Williams and any singer worth their weight in sound—is no one-trick pony, but she also has one special talent that overshadows her other gifts. On Lovers After All, the Bay Area-based vocalist establishes herself as a ballad singer with which to be reckoned. She can sing over swing with confidence ("Get Out Of Town") and sway to the subtle sounds of the bossa nova ("Haunted Heart"), but her ballad work eclipses all else. Her voice has depth and warmth that instantly soothes and seduces; her use of vibrato is rare and judicious, and her pacing, clarity and diction are perfectly suited to this particular style of song.

While plenty of singers that thrive in softer environments perform romantic fare with minimalistic backing, Winters' winning performances are a bit more dressed up. Trumpeter Peter Welker provides the band arrangements on this project, and his ability to cushion Winters' voice, while still creating music of interest, is key to the album's success. He fleshes out some rich chords with five horns ("Lovers After All"), paints silken saxophone sounds into the body of a classic ("Body And Soul"), and steps into the spotlight with horn-in-hand on an intimate vocal-piano-flugelhorn take on "I'll Close My Eyes." Notable instrumental solos from the likes of trombonist Scott Whitfield, tenor saxophonist Roberts Brothers, and several others adds weight to these performances, and several tracks also benefit from the addition of Pete Levin's synthesized string work, which sounds remarkably real, adding substance in subtle ways.

The Achilles heel on this album comes in the form of a blues-leaning take on "I Love Being Here With You"—with a less-than-comfortable Winters working over a stiff and mechanical-sounding band that includes an organ which doesn't blend well—but the other ten tracks suffer no such weaknesses. On Lovers After All, Deborah Winters proves to be an adept singer of songs, teller of timeless tales, and craftswoman of classy musical concoctions.

Track Listing: Lovers After All; How Am I To Know; Get Out Of Town; Body And Soul; i Love Being Here With You; For All We Know; Haunted Heart; The End Of A Love Affair; Come Sunday; How Deep Is The Ocean; I'll Close My Eyes.

Personnel: Deborah Winters: vocals; Doug Morton: trumpet (1-5, 9, 10); Peter Welker: trumpet (1-5, 9, 10), flugelhorn (11); Charlie McCarthy: alto saxophone (1, 4, 7, 9, 10); Rob Roth: tenor saxophone (1-5, 8-10); Scott Petersen: baritone saxophone (1-5, 9, 10); Mark Levine: piano (1, 4, 8, 9, 10); Chris Amberger: bass (1-4, 6-10); Kevin Dillon: drums (1, 4, 8-10); Andrew Speight: alto saxophone (2, 3, 5); Fred Lipsius: alto saxophone (2, 6); Scott Whitfield: trombone (2, 3, 6, 7); Dave Mathews: pianos (2, 3, 6, 11), Hammond B3 organ (5); Celso Alberti: drums (2, 7); Randy Vincent: guitar (2, 3, 7); Pete Levin: string synth (2, 4, 6); Kendrick Freeman: drums (3, 6); Garth Webber: guitar (5); Tim Haggerty: bass (5); James Preston: drums (5).

Title: Lovers After All | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Jazzed Media

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