Saturday, September 15, 2018

Judith Lorick's The Second Time Around

Judith Lorick is the type of jazz singer where you hear her voice and say, oh yes, I've been listening to Judith Lorick for years...she's fabulous! She's so relaxed and confident in the way she stretches out every word, and it's obvious she's mastered her craft. There's a subtle perfection to her voice that comes from a lifetime of performing jazz. "Judith Lorick is a vocalist we should have heard from long before now," the press kit exclaims, and I actually agree with this description wholeheartedly. She should be famous.

I know, that sounds like a lot of shameless hyperbole, and we reviewers are supposed to avoid that. I'm not saying that Lorick is the finest singer I've heard, because that is hyperbole. But you will listen to her masterful takes on these ballads and wonder why she isn't a household name. There's a story behind that, which is why her new album is titled The Second Time Around. First, these ballads celebrate "several life events for Judith, most notably the reunion with her long lost love Artie." Secondly, this album also celebrates her reunion with pianist Eric Reed. She met Reed back in 1995, and the chemistry between them was obvious. She spent almost thirty years in France, but when she returned in 2004 she reconnected. Hence, this album is the second time around in more way than one.

Naturally there is plenty of emotional significance to the making of this album. The subject matter is familiar--""If You Could See Me Now," "He Needs Me," "When I Look in Your Eyes" and "Why Did I Choose You?" all must have a very personal meaning to her. The idea behind this album is that Lorick has chosen songs that are reflected in her recent fortune, and she and Reed are arranging them in a way that's if Artie is sitting in the first row of her performance and they can't take their eyes off each other. The highlight of the album, for me anyway, is her rendition of "Wild Is the Wind." I first heard this, of course, when I bought Bowie's Station to Station back in 1976, and I've never heard another version of it. She transforms this already deeply romantic song into something more earthly and real and, most importantly, tender.

Lorick and Reed are both supremely talented, but the rest of her ensemble is downright brilliant: trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, drummer McClenty Hunter, bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and tenor sax player Chris Lewis. It's hard to stand out as a musician when you're playing ballads, especially ones that are being sung by such a powerful and direct singer, but everyone has a chance to shine. We're not talking improvisational solos that show off someone's talent--we're talking about each musician, particularly Pelt and Lewis, sharing their own story, talking about the second chances they've experienced in their lives. There's a magical sense of dedication in The Second Time Around, that each performer shares in Lorick's joy and is genuinely happy for her. It's rare when everything clicks together this well. Highly recommended.

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