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Singer Judy Wexler's "Under a Painted Sky" Debuts June 14 (Jazzed Media)

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Judy Wexler Singer Judy Wexler's UNDER A PAINTED SKY (Jazzed Media, June 14 release) follows her acclaimed Dreams and Shadows (profiled on NPR, reached #2 on the JazzWeek Radio Chart) with another marvelous, out-of-the-box collection of tunes.

Once again the band is anchored and organized by piano great Alan Pascua. With contributions fromtop tier musicians like Bob Mintzer, Bob Sheppard, and Alex Acuna, the music here shows what happens when some of the best, most creative forces in jazz work together.

Judy Wexler's Liner Notes to UNDER A PAINTED SKY

It had been two years since I released “Dreams & Shadows," and I was eager to get back into the studio. I had been performing steadily in the intervening years and was inspired to make a recording that reflected my creative journey so far, while also paying homage to artists who had done so much to inform my sensibilities. I wanted to craft something even more personal than I had done before. I wanted to create a musical ambience that expressed the joyousness of love, inevitable loss, tenderness, humor, and wisdom.

The arrangements needed to be spacious and modern. It was a no-brainer to ask piano great Alan Pasqua to collaborate again since we had worked together on my last two projects. His playing is virtuosic and full of heart, and his arrangements are open and richly harmonic. Instead of adding flashy contrivances, he lets the song speak for itself.

The other musicians on this recording—Darek Oles, Steve Hass, Larry Koonse, Bob Mintzer, Bob Sheppard, Walt Fowler, and Alex Acuna—all contributed so magically with deep communication and empathy. Producer Barbara Brighton, who is a dear friend and with whom I also worked on my other projects, was on board to help me deliver personal readings of these tunes that are so special to me, while Associate Producer Geoff Gillette contributed his engineering talents and musicality.

With my collaborators in place, I set about to find songs that are not typically offered in a jazz idiom, such as Wonderful Wonderful, which was a huge hit for Johnny Mathis in the late 1950's; Avec le Temps, a very popular 1970's French tune from which I took the CD's title, “Under a Painted Sky," from English lyrics written by my husband; and “Till There Was You," which was indelibly etched in my brain when my parents took me to see The Music Man when I was a kid. I heard something that moved me in each of these songs.

Of all the jazz vocalists who have inspired me, I pay homage to my favorite four on this recording. They have all left the planet too soon, but have left it a far more beautiful place.

Abbey Lincoln's depth and spirit are heard in every raw note she sang and every song she wrote, including “And How I Hoped for Your Love," her sad song about finding and losing love.

Shirley Horn had a remarkable gift in her ability to sustain emotion and meaning through her very generous use of space. Her repertoire was a deep well of outstanding material, including “The Great City," a hip tune that conveys a snarly warning to innocents venturing into the big city.

Blossom Dearie's girlish voice was inimitable, her delivery wonderfully conversational and effortlessly witty. Her beautiful rendition of “Don't Wait Too Long," a song about an older woman and a younger man and the brevity of life, motivated me to try and capture the song's poignancy, ache, and resignation.

Carmen McRae wrote “Last Time for Love" and actually accompanies herself on her live recording of the tune. I couldn't find another recording of it by anyone else, and here pay homage to one of my favorite singers with one of her rare compositions.

Although “An Occasional Man" was a big hit for Jeri Southern in the mid-50's, I first heard it on a TV commercial. It's about a woman skinny-dipping on a deserted island. It's a sexy song that just makes me smile.

The imagery of “A Little Tear" is beautiful, and I love the metaphor of the tear that falls on the hand of the beloved holding all their memories of tenderness.

“Caf" is a dream of a woman walking to meet her old lover. When she meets him, time stands still; and then, suddenly, as in all dreams, the moment ends and we are back to reality. I love how Walt Fowler's flugelhorn and Alex Acuna's percussion sustain the dreamlike quality of the lyrics.

Alan and I were both enthusiastic about including Whisper Not, a classic written by the great Benny Golson and Leonard Feather with a cool, timeless feel. The last tune is “Sack Full of Dreams," an optimistic, beautiful song made even more beautiful by the interplay of Alan and the incredible Larry Koonse on guitar. It is a wish for peace. It is what I wish for all of us.

— Judy Wexler, February 2011


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