One of the finest jazz vocalists to emerge from Texas, Kellye Gray made an auspicious recording debut in 1990. Despite its success, within two years Standards in Gray was out of print, and remained so until Gray obtained the rights some two decades later. Come 2015, rather than simply reissue a 25th-anniversary edition, Gray set a more ambitious goal: to recreate five of those eight original tracks, add new material and package it in a two-disc set with a remastered Standards. Shaped, like its predecessor, in a Houston studio and recorded live in front of an audience of 30, with no rehearsals or retakes, Rendering features a quintet that includes two members—saxophonist Warren Sneed and drummer Sebastian Whittaker—from the original session.
Now as then, much of Gray’s work, as well as her phrasing and tone, suggests the elegant early albums of Nancy Wilson. But there remains another side to Gray: a fearlessly bold jazz stylist who knows no limits. Sometimes the bespoke Gray dominates, as on the tender “A Time for Love” and a sinfully alluring “How Long Has This Been Going On.” Most often, though, the two halves coexist within Gray’s artful arrangements, escalating from genteel to outré without ever betraying the song’s emotional core. Such arresting duality reaches its apex on the most unexpected of standards, “How Insensitive,” usually served with chilled regret but here progressing to near-insane anguish.