Sadly, there is a major prejudice against singers in the jazz world; many jazz instrumentalists don't care to work with them or even listen to them. But one cannot say that about veteran pianist Mal Waldron, who has accompanied everyone from Billie Holiday to Jeanne Lee to Abbey Lincoln over the years. Waldron, much to his credit, has a greater understanding of vocalists than many instrumentalists, and he enjoys a consistently strong rapport with Judi Silvano on Riding a Zephyr. Waldron, in fact, is the singer's only accompaniment on this CD, which was recorded in Brussels, Belgium, in 2000 and released by Italy's Soul Note label in 2002. Silvano uses no drums, bass, or horns this time -- only Waldron's acoustic piano -- and the results are strikingly intimate. Waldron's compositions are the CD's main focus; Silvano contributed a few songs, but most of the melodies are Waldron's (including the blues "Cattin'" and the dreamy ballad "Soul Eyes," which is his most famous piece). Silvano does her share of scatting on this session, and she successfully adds her own lyrics to "Empty Street" and "One by One" (two Waldron gems that are usually heard as instrumentals). However, the lyrics that Silvano and husband Joe Lovano wrote for "Flickers" aren't as memorable -- saluting Waldron and describing his accomplishments, they're the sort of awkward tribute lyrics that sound like they were written for a textbook instead of a CD. Yes, Waldron is a jazz giant who deserves to be praised, but do listeners really need to feel like they're hearing someone sing a textbook? Thankfully, those lyrics are the disc's only real flaw. Ninety percent of the time, Riding a Zephyr is an impressive, highly rewarding document of Silvano's encounter with Waldron.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson