This two-fer combines a pair of rare late-'60s LPs recorded by Lorez Alexandria for producer Paul Gayten's Pzazz label after her brief but memorable tenure with Impluse! came to its close. The lovely Didn't We heralds a shift away from the traditional torch song jazz of her previous efforts in favor of a moody, evocative West Coast sensibility perfectly matched to her sumptuous vocals. While legendary tenorist Teddy Edwards is the marquee sideman here, Alexandria is also joined by pianist Ronnell Bright, who handles arranger duties and contributes several original compositions. Bright's pop leanings further underscore the session's shift away from jazz conventions, but it's an evolution that complements the natural soulfulness of Alexandria's voice. Given the deep gospel roots that inform her pure, powerful vocals, Lorez Alexandria was always as much a soul singer as a jazz singer anyway, regardless of where record stores racked her albums. In a Different Bag emphasizes and expands her pop possibilities, borrowing songs and sounds from the mainstream to create a richly nuanced session that's wonderfully accessible yet true to Alexandria's immense talents. Produced by Gayten and arranged by Jack Scott, the album boasts an organic intimacy that underscores its R&B-inspired approach: Alexandria excels on unlikely covers like the Beatles' "Hey Jude" and Randy Newman's "I Don't Want to Hear It Anymore," wrapping this daring and unconventional album on a perfectly poetic note with a reading of "My Way." The CD also includes two bonus cuts, "Santa Is Here" and "Help Me."
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AllMusic Review by Jason Ankeny