High Standards

Wesla Whitfield

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High Standards Review

by Dave Nathan

On this, her tenth album, Wesla Whitfield continues her journey through the Great American Songbook. Liner notes to the contrary, it seems as if Whitfield is trying to move toward a jazzier presentation of the music with High Standards. Toward this end, she has surrounded herself with some excellent jazz musicians. Gary Foster's cool, boppish alto appears on all but two cuts. Michael Moore's bass and Joe LaBarbera's drums have graced more jazz albums than one can count. The presence of these established players notwithstanding, the results are mixed. On "From This Moment On" and "Don't Explain," the meshing of Foster's high-energy jazz playing and Whitfield's splendid vocalizing provides two examples of where it works. But it's clear that Whitfield continues to be more at ease with cabaret than with the riskier jazz genre. Like many in cabaret, she creates expectations and sets the mood by including the verse for most of the songs on this set. Cabaret or jazz notwithstanding, her voice of springwater purity, excellent diction, imaginative phrasing, and excellent breath control which allows her to stretch out the words giving continuity to the lyrics, make Whitfield a leading champion of the traditional popular song. Listen to her as she extends the lyrics on "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" and "Don't Explain." Her outstanding control can be credited to her classical training. This album will strengthen her position as one of popular song's most creative interpreters. One final note: there are discrepancies on the way Whitfield spells her first name. Most places where it appears spell it "Weslia." However, "Wesla" is the way it is spelled on her official web site, and that is the spelling used here.

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