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Judy Wexler: What I See

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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When they excavated the world-famous La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles, scientists discovered an other-worldly array of fossilized treasures. Who would have thought that, millennia ago, in the middle of Tinseltown, saber-toothed tigers and mammoths were sashaying down Rodeo Drive? In an analogous way, What I See from Judy Wexler yields surprisingly terrific finds, primarily from material that has been available right in front but overlooked. A very fine vocal talent also surfaces.

With this, her fourth CD, Wexler grabs a handful of these pieces and performs them—with the help of some of L.A.'s finest First-Callers— with esprit, taste and wry humor. Wexler's vocal timbre seems ideal for the range of material here—from ballads to softer rock via broad- ranged selections from John Williams ("The Long Goodbye") to Richie Havens ("Follow"), et al. More restrained than robust, her voice has a minimalist's tinge, vibratoless, clear as virgin spingwater, but always on target pitch and intonation-wise. Although it's not disingenuously cute, there's more Blossom Dearie in her sound and lyric displays than, say, a Kral— Irene or Diana, she with the second "l." The overall sonority fits the unique material to a T.

Props are in order for pianist Jeff Colella's fine arrangements and playing, which frame Wexler's approach well. The solo efforts on the session are as tasty and apropos as she on whom the spotlight shines. No toes are stepped on in these dances. Multi-woodwind ace Bob Sheppard's solos shine bright, as do those of the enormously talented trumpeter, Ron Stout. Slide artist Scott Whitfield brings sweet tea to the garden party blowing on a Satchmo-signed standard ("A Kiss to Build a Dream On"). The rhythm section works the material, well without being intrusive or uninterested.

With a plethora of female vocalists umbilically tied to the Songbook and Ipanema Beach's sandy sounds, Wexler—by way of taking a road less traveled—delivers a refreshing, satisfying musical excavation. Hooray for Hollywood.

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.

Title: What I See | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Jazzed Media

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CD/LP/Track Review
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