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Vocalist Judy Wexler has already garnered much attention among the All About Jazz family of critics, having been covered by the likes of colleagues Dan Bilawsky and Nicholas F. Mondello. They both remark on the breadth of Wexler's repertoire, which is impressive. Rather than browbeating us with one more collection of songs inhabiting Scott Yanow's moratorium list from his 2008 compendium, The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide (Backbeat Books), Wexler seeks out less heard songs to nudge to the forefront for attention.
Wexler's support is top drawer. Longtime collaborator, pianist Jeff Colella arranges the eleven pieces, giving plenty of space to the principle and her empathic support. Multi-reedist Bob Sheppard obviously never sleeps considering the number of recordings on which he appears, playing bass clarinet and alto flute here. He lends the woody reed to the opening "Tomorrow Is Another Day" and the alto flute on "A Certain Sadness." Trombonist Scott Whitfield winds his way through a breezy "The Long Goodbye."
Wexler's voice is obedient to her master. Wexler has a straight-ahead, no-nonsense alto that colors well within in the lines and out. She is very adept at the casual ballad, like "They Say It's Spring" giving a bright and matter-of-fact delivery that is both poised and friendly. Her talent is one of singing not technical improvisation. Note perfect and well-studied, Wexler has many charms on this fourth recording. Many charms, indeed.
Track Listing: Tomorrow Is Another Day; The Moon Is Made Of Gold; Convince Me; They Say It's Spring; A Certain Sadness; The Long Goodbye; Just For Now; Follow; Another Time, Another Place; A Kiss To Build A Dream On; Laughing At Life.
Personnel: Judy Wexler: vocals; Jeff Colella: piano; Larry Koonse: guitar, ukulele; Chris Colangelo; bass; Steve Hass: drums; Ron Stout: flugelhorn, trumpet; Bob Sheppard: bass clarinet, alto flute; Scott Whitfield: trombone; Billy Hulting: percussion.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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