Easy On The Heart


aec.rmb7048.2 3/15/05 New

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    Easy On The Heart Rhombus Records

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Review Text In the jazz world, there is a joke that goes like this: how many vocalists does it take to sing "My Funny Valentine"? All of them. That joke is a response to what can be called the "warhorse factor" -- that is, improvisers who stick to the most overdone Tin Pan Alley warhorses and don't do anything unusual with them (something that instrumentalists and singers are both guilty of). It isn't that the improvisers are performing bad material; no one is saying that "My Funny Valentine" and "Our Love Is Here to Stay" aren't great songs, but they're songs that have been totally beaten to death -- and the fact is that jazz artists who perform warhorses exclusively are just plain lazy. Well, no one will accuse Judy Wexler's debut album, Easy on the Heart, of being plagued by the warhorse factor. The California vocalist obviously realizes that worthwhile songs don't just come from Tin Pan Alley, and she successfully brings her interpretive powers to everything from Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," the Beatles' "In My Life," and Henry Mancini's "Moment to Moment" to Abbey Lincoln's "I'm in Love." Wexler includes some Tin Pan Alley material as well -- most notably, Jerome Kern's "Nobody Else But Me" and Irving Berlin's "I Got Lost in His Arms" -- but even then, she doesn't go for the beaten-to-death warhorses. Of course, having an interesting, far-reaching repertoire wouldn't mean much if Wexler couldn't sing -- and thankfully, she has a big, appealing voice and a healthy sense of swing to go with her broad-minded song selection. Hard-swinging but with a definite romantic streak, Wexler is someone admirers of Abbey Lincoln or Dianne Reeves should have no problem getting into -- and she's someone who shows a lot of promise on her memorable debut album. ~ Alex Henderson

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