Paula West

Restless

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    8
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For her second recording, Restless, San Francisco based Paula West sings a 15-song program split between lesser known numbers and standards, but the whole CD benefits from wonderfully understated arrangements by pianist Ken Muir. West also utilizes tasteful, carefully plotted soloists including guitarist Brad Buethe (also an arranger on two tracks, ) saxophonists Dave Tidball and Noel Jewkes, trumpeter Allen Smith, and most prominently violinist Jeremy Cohen. Two great bassists, Bill Douglass and Al Obidinski keep the rhythms fluid and buoyant. West has a crystal clear, perfectly pitched voice, grown-up, sultry, not overt or obvious on any level. It's rich, devoid of influences, and instantly attractive. West is also not reticent to sing tricky lyrics, kicking right off the bat with the impressive "Who Will Buy?" and the laid-back title track. Buethe's killer arrangement and West's cat-quick reading of Jobim's "Waters of March" should convince anyone, as can a hard swinging "Lover" or the coy jazz take on Lennon and McCartney's "Fixin' a Hole." At her most sensuous, West's ballad approach meshes perfectly with the musical backdrop. The rubato "I'm a Fool to Want You," the cool "Some Cats Know," the operatic "Why Can't You Behave?" and the romantically dripping "Moments Like This" all prove convincing and effective. Variations include the klip-klop "Don't Fence Me In" and "Cow Cow Boogie," but the most intriguing sonics are between Buethe's guitar and Cohen's violin while West scoots around the counter melodies of "They Say It's Wonderful." This is an exceptional singer with a repertoire and supportive musicians to match. It's a recording with many signposts of quality, and a solid candidate for Jazz Vocal CD of the Year.

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