Rare is the jazz vocal CD that makes one stand up and take notice on the first hearing. But Judy Wexler achieves that reaction with her brilliant Dreams & Shadows, in part due to her instinctive ability to bring out the best in each song, often taking it into unfamiliar territory. The inventive arrangements by pianists Alan Pasqua and Jeff Colella (who alternate at the keyboard) are also an important factor, along with their use of key soloists to add flavor to each chart. There are a number of familiar favorites: the driving post-bop setting of "Comes Love" utilizing Colella's altered harmonies; "If I Only Had a Brain" with Wexler's playful vocal accented by the bird-like chirps of Bob Shepherd's soprano sax; and Sonny Rollins' "Pent Up House," newly fitted with Jack Prather's lyrics and featuring Wexler's deft re-creation of Rollins' original solo. Several songs come from the world of pop. Wexler's sensitive handling of Pasqua's haunting arrangement of "One Less Bell to Answer" (a hit for the 5th Dimension) and the sassy bossa nova scoring of "Spooky" (popularized by the long forgotten Classics IV) accented by Gilbert Castellanos' sinewy muted trumpet are examples of looking for material in unexpected places. Her sensual rendition of Victor Young's "Dreams & Shadows (Delilah)" and engaging scatting in Jerome Kern's "In Love in Vain" revive two gems by two masters of the Great American Songbook. Judy Wexler deserves widespread recognition for her outstanding CD.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden