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New album from vocalist Judy Wexler

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    Posted: 03 Jun 2019 at 8:53pm
VOCALIST JUDY WEXLER PRESENTS 
"JAZZ STANDARDS FOR THE 21st CENTURY"
ON HER 5th CD, "CROWDED HEART"
RELEASING MAY 31st ON JEWEL CITY JAZZ

NPR WEEKEND EDITION Interview with Susan Stamberg 
Airs Nationwide SATURDAY, JUNE 8th

On CROWDED HEART, vocalist JUDY WEXLERpresents "jazz standards for the 21st century," an anthology of ten timeless modern jazz compositions by contemporary songwriters. Arranged by piano great ALAN PASQUA and featuring a band that comprises some of the finest, first-call musicians in Southern California, these tunes are the perfect vehicle for Wexler's warm, soulful voice and highly personal interpretations.
 
This is Wexler's fifth CD since her 2005 release of Easy on the Heart. Each of her CDs, which also includes Dreams & Shadows (2008), Under a Painted Sky (2011), and What I See (2013), have all received stellar reviews and topped the national JazzWeek radio charts.
 
Wexler is a mainstay on the California jazz scene. A Los Angeles native and current resident, she performs regularly up and down the coast, from San Diego to San Francisco to Mendocino. She also sings in venues across the country and internationally, from Birdland and The Blue Note in New York City, Jazz Alley in Seattle, Scullers in Boston, to Nardis Jazz Club in Istanbul. She has headlined at overseas jazz festivals including Tel Aviv, Dubai and Montreal.
 
Besides her sumptuous voice, Wexler is known for finding under-exposed musical gems and for her ability to capture the meaning of a song and tell its story. In All About Jazz, Dan Bilawsky wrote, "Judy Wexler is more than a mere singer of songs. She's an actress, mood painter, song archaeologist, and vocalist par excellence."
 
For CROWDED HEART, Wexler set out to find timeless modern jazz compositions written by contemporary songwriters. Wexler set a high standard for the songs she chose. She had to feel the song was the perfect marriage of lyrics and melody. The melody had to be beautiful and memorable, and the lyrics had to tell a compelling story through vivid, evocative images. Finding the right songs took a year. It was a process that renewed and intensified her respect for the composers and lyricists who made the Great American Songbook great.
 
The first thing she did was to enlist the help of Pasqua, with whom she worked on several of her previous albums. Pasqua is a legend in both the jazz and pop worlds. In jazz, he's performed and recorded with The New Tony Williams Lifetime and Jack DeJohnette, among many others. In pop, he recorded two albums with Bob Dylan and three with Santana, as well as touring and/or recording with Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and Elton John.According to Wexler, "I wanted to work with Alan again because I totally trust his instincts about everything, including repertoire. He always gave his thumbs up to the songs I was most excited about."
 
Wexler brought to the session some old friends and a couple of new ones. Guitarist LARRY KOONSE is ubiquitous on the SoCal jazz scene and has appeared on Wexler's last two recordings. Multi-reed player BOB SHEPPARD has appeared on all of Wexler's CDs and is featured playing alto flute on "The Last Goodbye." DAREK OLES is one of the finest bass players in the country. He played on three of Wexler's past CDs. STEVE HASS is a drum master who can play in any style.This is his fourth time recording with Wexler. And STEFANIE FIFE, who also recorded with Wexler on her Dreams & Shadows,adds gorgeous cello lines to the final track, "And We Will Fly."
 
Wexler's new friends include JOSH JOHNSON, who is an exciting young alto saxophonist who has performed with top names like Esperanza Spalding, Billy Childs, and Wayne Shorter, among others. He can be heard on "Painted on Canvas" and "I Took Your Hand." AARON SERFATY hails from Venezuela where he was one of the top percussionists. After coming to this country, he began touring and recording with artists such as Arturo Sandoval and Dori Caymmi. 
 
"Crowded Heart," the title track, is one of the first songs she selected. It was composed by her good friend Sinne Eeg, a Danish vocalist and songwriter with an international following. Eeg's compatriot Mads Mathias wrote the clever lyrics about the end of an affair with a married man. "Parisian Heartbreak" was composed by virtuoso accordionist Richard Galliano. Originally called "Spleen," Kurt Elling changed the title when he wrote the song's poignant lyrics about lost love. The tune features a soulful melodica solo by Pasqua. "Circus Life," by Luciana Souza, Larry Klein and David Batteau, is a lively samba about the stresses and general insanity of modern life. At the session, Pasqua decided to add a fun whistling improvisation to end the tune. "Painted on Canvas" was written by jazz, soul and gospel star Gregory Porter and appeared on his CD Be Good. Porter is a talented songwriter who often draws on social themes. On this tune, painting becomes a simile for how a person's life is enhanced by all the people and experiences one embraces. "Stars" was composed by innovative pianist Fred Hersch, whose original instrumental version is called "Endless Stars." Exceptional British vocalist and lyricist Norma Winstone wrote the lyrics and shortened the title. Wexler navigates the challenging intervals with assurance and deftly renders the song's raw emotion.
 
"The Last Goodbye" was composed by Grammy-winning pianist Alan Broadbent with lyrics by British vocalist Georgia Mancio, who has become a valued online friend to Wexler through their exchange about music. "Take My Breath Away" is a sexy, suggestive tune by René Marie, who is a prolific songwriter as well as a stunning vocalist. Marie was very generous and sent Wexler all of her songs, but this one especially stood out. "I Took Your Hand" was composed by Italian pianist and prolific composer Enrico Pieranunzi. An instrumental number originally titled "Fellini's Waltz," Lorraine Feather wrote the mesmerizing lyrics about a woman who goes to a ball and falls deeply in love with a masked reveler just by touching his hand. "It's Only Smoke" has music by Larry Goldings with lyrics by Cliff Goldmacher. Wexler eschews sodden emotionality in her approach to the lyrics. She lets the poetic lyrics speak for themselves. "And We Will Fly" was composed by Alan Pasqua with lyrics by Kurt Elling and Phillip Galdston. It originally appeared as an instrumental called "Highway 14" on Pasqua's 2005 CD, My New Old Friend. It's a beautiful love song and an uplifting closing for this sensuous, engaging recording.
 
When Wexler first conceived of this project, she reached out to jazz historian Ted Gioia, author of The Jazz Standards, for advice. He told her that jazz stays alive and becomes more than a history lesson or museum piece when a modern composition is embraced and recorded by many vocalists. Wexler is doing her part to keep the music fresh and interesting by presenting on CROWDED HEART songs that she feels will withstand the test of time.

CROWDED HEART will be available on May 31, 2019 in stores and online everywhere.
 
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