I’ve been wondering a lot about wonder lately. I’ve been curious about the curiosities of life, the “cool salty air” and what it feels like to exist in a state of astonishment. So frequently we succumb to the rushes of life, never stopping to partake in something genuinely human.
Judy Wexler takes her time and seems to wonder about the world and the songs within in it on her Under a Painted Sky.
I first discovered Wexler in March of 2008. Her Dreams & Shadows was a beguiling example of what happens when someone who can swing meets magnificent storytelling. Her sensibilities as a singer are never demanding and she expresses herself beautifully through simple turns of phrase and straightforward expression.
Under a Painted Sky continues the notion with gratifying simplicity. Singing tunes arranged by Alan Pasqua, Wexler pronounces elegantly and smiles her way through a dozen songs picked and arranged from various corners of the artistic world.
She opens with “Wonderful Wonderful,” a tune Johnny Mathis turned into a hit. Walt Fowler (trumpet and flugelhorn) offers jubilant accompaniment as Wexler describes the magic of love. “I feel the glow of your unspoken love,” she sings. “I’m aware of all the treasures that I own.”
Gears shift slightly going into the lounge feel of “And How I Hoped for Your Love,” a number guided by Pasqua’s piano and some nice brushwork from Steve Hass.
Wexler, a Los Angeles native, models her version of “Don’t Wait Too Long” off Blossom Dearie. The way Wexler spaces her words is magical and the lovely playing of guitarist Larry Koonse melds perfectly with Pasqua’s ivories to create a vibe that is truly special. It’s a smooth piece of music, that’s for sure.
Wexler’s influences include the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan, but there’s a touch of classical to her air as well. Having studied jazz at the Dick Grove Music School, Wexler’s been a student of some of the best jazz piano and jazz singing teachers in the business. It shows, as her technique is well-expressed and her tone is rich.
Under a Painted Sky is a collection of music that showcases Wexler stunningly, but it also takes her to the next level beyond Dreams & Shadows. Lovely and lively, this recording is one that helps inject a little much-needed wonder and astonishment back into the world.
This was originally published as I Hear Sparks: Judy Wexler – Under a Painted Sky at Blogcritics.org