Dreams & Shadows
So refreshingly good, so fundamentally gifted is Judy Wexler that it’s a bit distressing to learn that inexperience, coupled with a degree of late-to-the-party anxiety, very nearly kept the flame-haired Angeleno from becoming a jazz singer.
Her original intent was to study acting. Then the desire to become a clinical therapist caught her fancy, prompting her to pursue a major in psychology. Then the acting bug bit again and it was back to drama class. After a two year stint with Caught in the Act: A Theater Collective of Four Short Women, a Bay Area quartet devoted to comedy and music, she married her upstairs neighbor. Together, around the corner from their North Beach apartment, they discovered Keystone Korner. The world of jazz opened up to her, harmony and vocal studies followed, and the idea of building a career accompanying herself on piano took root. Convinced “I’d be a hundred years old before I’d be as good as I wanted to be,” she decided to focus solely on signing. But, melodramatic as it sounds, it took a nudge from her dying mother to turn the dream into reality.
Now, with this exalted follow-up to 2005’s superb Easy on the Heart, Wexler proves she’s ready to join the top rank of female jazz vocalists. Listening to the heated urgency that propels both her “Comes Love” and “In Love In Vain.” Hear how she explores the murky corners of the Victor Young-penned title track. Appreciate the aching simplicity of her “One Less Bell to Answer,” the wry half-smile that ignites “If I Only Had a Brain” and the cool sensuality of “Spooky.” Most glorious of all (which, given the superior quality of these 13 tracks, is saying a lot), is her immaculate treatment of Blossom Dearie’s “Summer Is Gone,” where warm memories and chilled loneliness swirl together like windswept autumn leaves.