Judy Wexler: What I See

Though Judy Wexler’s reputation as one of the West Coast’s most compelling vocalists was cemented some time ago, What I See, her fourth release, suggests a heightened maturity, an even greater sense of assured imagination. Much like Abbey Lincoln-and at this point in Wexler’s musical progress, the comparison is quite valid-her skills as an actress are skillfully exercised, adding vivid shadings to her interpretations. Consider, for example, her opener, King Pleasure’s “Tomorrow Is Another Day,” its optimistic promise underscored by a cautionary hint of trepidation.

Wexler’s passion for unearthing lost treasures rivals Michael Feinstein’s. Among her plunder: an inky rendering of Johnny Mercer and John Williams’ furtive “The Long Goodbye”; a tender unfolding of Andr√© and Dory Previn’s “Just for Now”; a gently uplifting treatment of Jerry Merrick’s “Follow”; and a slow, hazy meander through Benny Carter’s ethereal “Another Time, Another Place.” Shifting to more familiar fare, Wexler adds a cunning reading of “A Kiss to Build a Dream On,” a free, sunny “Laughing at Life” and a clear-eyed untangling of Carlos Lyra’s “A Certain Sadness.”

On her previous discs, Wexler worked primarily with pianist and arranger Alan Pasqua, though Jeff Colella shared those duties with Pasqua on 2008’s Dreams & Shadows. Here, Colella is given full rein, and his deft touch is integral to the album’s multifaceted canniness.