ABOUT JENNIFER

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biography

Nine years is a long time between albums, but Jennifer Lee has been busy taking her music into rarely explored emotional terrain. My Shining Hour, the third album by the esteemed Bay Area jazz vocalist, guitarist, and pianist, reintroduces an artist long known as a gifted interpreter of the American and Brazilian Songbooks. But with her ensemble the Ever-Expanding Universe and a stellar cast of special guests, including trumpet legend Randy Brecker, bass master Bob Magnusson, Grammy Award-winning violinist Mads Tolling, and percussion maestro John Santos, Lee has emerged as a songwriter with an unusual gift for evoking uncanny experiences, hard-won wisdom, unbridled joy, and liminal states of consciousness. 

Her evolution from her former creative identity as an arranger/interpreter to her present calling as a composer took Lee by surprise. “I always wrote a little bit, but I certainly never thought of myself as a songwriter,” she says. “Then a shift happened and all this music started channeling in.  It’s like some crazy, overactive muse attached itself to me.”

 

While My Shining Hour marks a sea change for Lee, she’s still swimming with longtime collaborators, which is one reason why her music sounds so finely wrought and fully formed. Like on her previous, critically-hailed albums, 2003’s Jaywalkin’ and 2009’s Quiet Joy (both on Peter Sprague’s label SBE Records), Lee draws on two deep pools of talent from San Diego and the Bay Area. The line of continuity runs through Peter Sprague, the brilliant San Diego guitarist known for his extensive work with Chick Corea, Charles McPherson, and Hubert Laws. For Lee, the collaboration has provided, among many other things, an education. “Peter is an extraordinary musician and a deeply soulful player,” she says. “Working with him over the years, watching how he’ll reharmonize or phrase a line, I’ve learned so much. It’s definitely influenced my writing.”

 

While she continues to perform as Jennifer Lee, the artist’s full name is Jennifer Lee Sevison, which is how she publishes and copyrights her songs to avoid confusion with other musicians recording as Jennifer Lee. Born in Redwood City, California, on August 6, 1964, and raised in Menlo Park, Lee attended Woodside High School, but in her senior year she transferred to Menlo-Atherton High as a pianist to take advantage of the school’s respected jazz program. 

 

She continued her jazz piano studies at Foothill College, often accompanying vocalists, all the while nursing her secret desire to sing. She didn’t take the plunge until an early, unwanted glimpse at mortality radically changed her priorities in the late 1980s, when she dropped out of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst to tend to her stricken father. 

 

“My dad got really sick and I came back from school to take care of him,” Lee says. “He died the next year.  He was only 51. That really brought things into focus for me. I realized that none of us knows how long we have here on planet earth, so I’d better do what I want to do now.” 

 

After her father’s passing, she returned to the Foothill College music department, but instead of backing other singers she took over the microphone herself. Subsequently studying with esteemed Bay Area jazz singer Kitty Margolis, Lee gradually worked up the courage to start performing in public. 

 

“It took me so long to come to singing – to finally admit to myself that this is really what I want to do. Then it took another decade plus for the songwriter in me to emerge. I’m the epitome of the late bloomer,” says Lee, who honed her jazz technique on a succession of regular gigs around the Bay Area. She made her first appearance on CD in 2001 on Quintessential, an album featuring three tracks each by five Bay Area singers, including Jenna Mammina and Cathi Walkup. 

 

Lee’s 2009 release Quiet Joy – an exciting mix of originals, standards and Brazilian songs – was a favorite of the late Bud Spangler (drummer / Grammy-nominated producer) who called it “a JOY from start to finish.”  Her 2003 CD Jaywalkin’ was named “finest debut of the year, big label or small” by Dan McClenaghan of All About Jazz.

 

She teamed up with Peter Sprague on that debut, and since then his Spragueland Studios in Encinitas has turned into a creative refuge and laboratory. Or in the case of My Shining Hour, the Southland retreat served as a chrysalis from which Lee has reemerged after 9 years to take flight as a brilliantly-hued singer/songwriter, curious, self-possessed, and unafraid.

articles and reviews

– The East Bay Monthly • January 2019 • CD review: My Shining Hour


Oakland’s Jennifer Lee Making a Triumphant Return to the Stage

Jennifer Lee is interested in astronomy, but her Ever-Expanding Universe project is more about her creative journey than the fate of the cosmos. The slow-blooming Oakland singer, songwriter, guitarist and pianist first made an impression on the 2001 CD Quintessential, an album featuring three tracks each by five rising Bay Area singers, including Jenna Mammina and Sharman Duran. She emerged as a fully formed artist with 2003’s Jaywalkin’ and 2008’s Quiet Joy (both on her SBE label), albums informed by her love of bossa nova.

Throughout the aughts she was a regular presence on Bay Area stages, earning a devoted following with her sparkling performances. But for much of the past decade, Lee was on the professional down-low, contending with a series of personal challenges. Last August, she made a triumphant return with My Shining Hour, an album that reintroduced Lee as an artist transformed. With 11 of the 13 tracks featuring her original songs, the project captures her command of numerous musical idioms, with straight-ahead swingers and ballads, bossa nova, samba, tango, and rock-tinged fusion. The album continues her long-running creative partnership with San Diego guitarist Peter Sprague, a Chick Corea confidant with whom she co-arranged every song.

For her performance Sat., Jan. 26, at the California Jazz Conservatory’s Rendon Hall, Lee will be joined by the special guest Carey Williams on vocals and the superlative Bay Area rhythm section tandem of bassist John Wiitala and pianist/keyboardist Adam Shulman, who’s become the accompanist of choice for Bay Area vocal stars such as Paula West, Ed Reed, and Tiffany Austin. Supporting herself on guitar and piano, Lee explores an enthralling constellation of emotional states, largely eschewing songs about romance in favor of other aspects of the human condition.

Jennifer Lee and the Ever-Expanding Universe, 8 p.m. Sat., Jan. 26, Rendon Hall, 2040 Addison St., Berkeley, $22, 510-845-5373, cjc.edu/concerts.

Andrew Gilbert

[read this review online]




– PopMatters • May 2009 • CD review: Quiet Joy


Here is an unknown singer out of the California Bay Area. Unknown musicians, too. Small label. The cover photo is of the leader in her backyard garden, suggesting a homemade production. Uhoh.

But from the first notes of Quiet Joy, my trepidation was dashed. Lee — a pianist and guitarist first who discovered her voice later — sings with musicianly clarity and drive, a bit like a bossanova-savvy, female Mel Torme. Like Torme, Lee’s voice is pleasing, precise and clean but also capable of moving through an arrangement like a brilliantly played alto saxophone. On “I Hear Music”, she dazzles with boppish syncopations and daring melodic turns, some sung in unison with her guitarist Peter Sprague. It’s special to be dazzled by Lee in large part because her voice has a gorgeous undersung quality that she likely learned from her obvious romance with Brazilian music; Jennifer Lee isn’t all about dazzling you… then she does.

Half the tunes here are bossa novas, often delivered in convincing Portuguese, and all delivered with a rhythmically precise form of relaxation. Like Elias, Lee does a neat job of converting a standard, “S Wonderful” into a samba groove, and she also serves up bossas that are less than familiar. Unlike Elias, Lee does not immediately sound like the great bossa singers. Her tone is bright but typically light on vibrato, bringing to mind the “cleaner” band singers of the 1950s but with a keen knowledge of all the hip melodic dodges and killer rhythmic displacements from bebop singing. Because she plays her own rhythm guitar or piano, perhaps, she seems deeply in sync with her band.

And when Lee tackles a familiar standard like “Pennies from Heaven”, she nails it with effortless swing and sparkle. Her second chorus of the melody, as is custom, contains embellishments of the original melody, each of which manages to be simultaneously surprising and dead-in-thepocket. Neither rehearsed-sounding nor slick, this is still jazz singing that avoids seeming pointlessly tricky. Her wedding of “On a Clear Day” and “Never Never Land” is similarly balanced—dramatic without seeming theatrical, and sensitive but not maudlin. And her piano solo and accompaniment (and her arrangement) also strike a stirring balance.

Cap it off with this: Jennifer Lee writes her own sharp and soaring tunes. “You Knew” has a winding melody framed by a hip little figure and a great set of changes for solos. “Quiet Joy” is a wordless bossa that seems to move on a gentle breeze above the band. Quiet Joy, as a collection, begged me to overlook it, but I’m thrilled that I didn’t.

Will Layman




– JazzReview.com • October 2003 • live concert review


LIVE in Los Angeles: Jaywalkin' Hollywood Boulevard – Jennifer Lee celebrates her new CD in Hollywood.

Bay Area jazz singer Jennifer Lee recently came down to Los Angeles to give a performance celebrating the release of her debut CD Jaywalkin' at Catalina's Bar & Grill. Leading a drummerless trio, Ms. Lee's nearly two-hour set naturally highlighted numbers from that collection and was most interestingly included several bossa novas and folk songs sung convincingly in the original Portuguese. Rounding out the group quite capably were saxophonist Tripp Sprague, guitarist Steve Cotter and bassist John Leftwich. Singing lyrics by Hoagy Carmichael, Frank Loesser and other great songwriters, Jennifer Lee proved an able interpreter.

Ms. Lee has drawn comparisons to singers like Jo Stafford and Julie Christy who sing in a 'cool' style. While she does render her vocals somewhat conversationally, Lee lets you know she's singing. She demonstrated her control of vibrato and pitch early on with a fresh sounding version of "Blue Skies." Another highlight was Carmichael's "Baltimore Oriole," her wintry vocal matched by Sprague's frosty sax and chilly guitar from Cotter.

Lee is not just a good singer, but an engaging performer as well. Between songs, she projected a humorous, self-effacing and pleasantly neurotic persona that amused the intimate crowd. Her version of Loesser's "Inchworm" illustrated both facets of her musical personality nicely. Prefacing the tune with a long and funny anecdote about encountering a sect of hashish smoking Hindus on a trip to India, Lee proceeded to deliver the tune in an appropriately slinky manner, punctuating the number mid-song with an existential spoken-word aside that I would've thought was a stream of consciousness ad-lib if I wasn't already familiar with the version on the CD. Jennifer Lee's performance at Catalina's was warm and musically rewarding, and her backing band meshed well with her. On stage, Lee delivered on

the promise shown on Jaywalkin', her new CD on SBE Records. Ms. Lee explained that SBE stands for "Striving to Break Even"--she and her album deserve to reach that goal and then some.

Ted Kane




– AllAboutJazz.com • May 2009 • CD review: Quiet Joy


When a vocalist does a collection of standards, it's important to create something that stands out—something that distinguishes his/her recording from so many others. Jennifer Lee comes through in more ways than one. Quiet Joy showcases Lee's versatility as a pianist, guitarist, arranger, composer and singer. This album is mostly comprised of songs written by Brazilian composers or written by Lee in a Brazilian style; the music would be very different even if she only sang. Lee is a San Francisco product, and on Quiet Joy she is accompanied by a variable lineup of Bay Area and San Diego musicians.

The title song, one of Lee's three originals, has a slight samba edge to it; she plays guitar and leads on a wordless vocal chant. Lee shifts easily from a flute-like "oo" to consonant-flavored syllables, while Raul Ramirez handles percussion with Bob Magnusson on bass.

"O Barquinho" captures that same spirit, with Buca Necak taking over on bass and Tripp Sprague adding harmonica. This time, Lee mixes in some scatting with the lyrics. Her delivery is on par with the sounds of such Brazilian vocalists as Astrud Gilberto and Flora Purim, with Sprague's solo adding to the song's joyful feeling. When Lee sings again, the lyrics are in Brazilian Portuguese. She shifts back to English and scatting during the closing sequence, while Sprague answers on harmonica.

"Music of Your Soul," another Lee composition, is a delightful stroll with Lee and Ramirez providing finger snaps. David Udolf joins on piano and Peter Sprague on guitar. During the chorus, Lee sings a phrase that gives a slight nod to Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments." Necak scats during his bass solo and Sprague and Udolf also get turns at soloing.

Lee and her sidemen do a masterful job of mixing samba with straight jazz. Her use of both Portuguese and English lyrics, to say nothing of her scats, enhances the special nature of Quiet Joy.

Woodrow Wilkins




– Pacifica Tribune • January 2004 • live concert review


LIVE at the Sanchez Concert Hall in Pacifica, CA: A little night rhythm and Zen with vocalist Jennifer Lee.

There’s a peacefulness about singer, musician Jennifer Lee; a calmness as equally rooted in the comfort of friends as in the ribbon of a melody. With a disarming sense of humor and the know-how to arrange a song to fit her groove, she started her Saturday night concert at the Sanchez Concert Hall in a crowd full of strangers and ended her encore in a room full of smiles.

The house vocalist at San Francisco’s Ritz Carlton, Lee also plays piano, composes and knows how to drop a jaw with her rhythm ease on guitar. Having worked many years as an instrumentalist and arranger, Lee was once known only by her closet as a singer with the right stuff. Her recently released CD Jaywalkin’ pretty much burns that door off the hinges with its great vocal layer of straight-ahead jazz, tinctured and infused by musical callings from the gardens of Brazil, lullaby land and down in the basement funk. A fair amount of melodies from that new CD were performed at Saturday night’s concert as Lee was joined on stage by Jeff Buenz on guitar, John Hettel on standup bass and Rich Kuhns on accordion. Lee often singled out her comusicians with compliments, introductions and nods, with reason… Still, Lady Lee needs to put her own name out to the audience from time to time, just so there can be a little release of stored up ovation.

Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” introduced the audience to Lee’s finger snap way with casual cool. But the second song up, George and Ira Gershwin’s “S’Wonderful!” with its silky mood and Brazilian beat, showcasing Lee on both vocal and rhythm guitar, established a sort of

Jobim aphrodisiac which wove in and out of Lee’s Saturday night serenade. Lee’s version of the Carmichael/Webster tune “Baltimore Oriole” blew steam in all the right places and made for one smart duet jive between accordion and bass. Lee’s flirty cheek-to-cheek rendition of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” made it clear why this was the song that “snagged her a husband” a few years back. A voice and bass duet grabbed a tom-tom tempo and shook it out sweet on the Lee and Hettle rendition of “Day By Day” (Cahn/Stordahl/Weston). “I Don’t Want To Fall” (Brancato/Bryson) was a smooth jazz waltz. Jobim’s “Ligia” was explained by Lee as being a song of longing tinged with bitterness and sarcasm; her delivery a gentle caress of the hauntings of almost love. Had Lee delivered this song simply with her vocal and guitar it would have been incredibly fantastic. With her onstage musicians there to lend an extra hand, particularly guitarist Buenz, this song went on into the realm of beyond all that...Then there was Lee’s every which way good rendition of “I’ll Remember April” (Raye/DePaul/Johnson); her great tell-a-Zen-tale and make-like-a-thundering mystic rhythm on Frank Loesser’s “The Inchworm”, and her sweet potato pie breakdown on Jon Hendricks’ “O Pato” (with outrageous bubble pop guitar by Buenz) that kept her audience clear on the fact, this was a seatbelts-on performance. Lee and band mates made the stuff of dreams on a vision medley arrangement of “On a Clear Day/Never Never Land” (Lerner/Lane) (Comdem/Green/Styne). “I Love Being Here With You” (Lee/Schluger) closed out the night with lyrics, melody and song satisfaction that just made one want to turn back the hands of time. The Henderson/Dixon classic “Bye Bye Blackbird” satisfied the heat on the audience’s call back ovation.

Jennifer Lee told her audience that, “Music helps to keep my thoughts in a positive place.”

Thanks Ms. Lee for keeping the Zen light on while cranking up your audience with a capture of the sweet.

Jean Bartlett, Arts Correspondent




– Cabaret Exchange • April 2009 • CD review: Quiet Joy


She comes at you like a polished Blossom Dearie..........She phrases like Ella..........Her repertoire is classic.......And last, her sidemen choices are such that her project becomes viable, albeit successful by default!!

I speak of one Jennifer Lee songstress extraordinaire. Her sidemen create the necessary 'platform' as it were to allow Jennifer to ply her wares confidently and assertively. This is a highly imaginative excursion through both the American Songbook and some lesser known compositions which Jennifer has chosen. That said, 'feeling' is her generating force as it relates to her musical touch. So then, tone and lyricism abound in her music and I recommend her highly to my readers.

George W Carroll, The Musicians' Ombudsman




– East Bay Express • May 2009 • CD review: Quiet Joy


Bossa nova — the Brazilian blend that made significant inroads into American jazz and pop during the 1960s with its combination of the swing of jazz and the sway of samba — is back in vogue, as evidenced by recent Diana Krall and Eliane Elias recordings. On her second CD for San Diego guitarist Peter Sprague's SBE label, Oakland jazz vocalist Jennifer Lee applies her warmly inviting alto tones to a half-dozen bossa nova numbers, including the classics "O Barquinho" (Little Boat) and "O Pato" (The Duck). Lee uses Jon Hendricks' hip English lyrics on the latter and sings the self-penned title track wordlessly, but she renders the other four in lilting Portuguese. Her acoustic guitar chords add to the rhythm section on those selections. On many of the other songs she switches to piano or lays out instrumentally, letting Sprague, drummer Duncan Moore, and alternating bassists Buca Necak and Bob Magnusson drive such swingers as "I Hear Music," "Pennies from Heaven," and the original "You Knew," which references Peet's on Piedmont Avenue.

The Belgrade-born Necak shows himself to be a rather original stylist, particularly when he scats along with several of his pizzicato bass solos, sort of like Slam Stewart without the bow. Peter Sprague plays some commanding guitar solos, both electric and acoustic, and his brother Tripp Sprague alternates between tenor saxophone and chromatic harmonica. His lyrical harmonica lines, which bring to mind both Stevie Wonder and Toots Thielemans, give additional gentleness to Lee's exquisitely tender reading of the Frank Churchill/Ned Washington lullaby "Baby Mine."

Lee Hildebrand




– Jazz.com • May 2009 • CD review: Quiet Joy


Somehow, sultry Brazilian rhythms manage to be both relaxing and energizing. That's certainly the way I feel about the title track from Jennifer Lee's new album. The promotional material indicates that Lee was inspired by her new 7-string guitar (Boy, am I jealous!) and by the rustic beauty of the town of Elk, in Mendocino County. Music from Rio by way of California? Yes, and the secret here is not the easy slink of Lee's band (in particular, Raul Ramirez on percussion), but in Lee's absolutely gorgeous wordless vocalizations. When she's singing them alone, Astrud Gilberto is not far from my mind. When she harmonizes with herself, she conjures memories of the duo of Mark Ledford and David Blamires of the Pat Metheny Group. These references make no difference though, because your ears will be

swept away on the wave of beautiful vocals.

Mark Saleski




– Jazz Society of Oregon • June 2009 • CD review: Quiet Joy


There's something to be said for purity of voice, especially in a jazz world glutted with female vocal talent. Bay Area singer Lee possesses that purity, delivering both swing and bossa with grace and beauty. Her voice is inviting and easygoing, putting the listener at instant ease. This disc starts out with a far too popular tune, "I Hear Music," done as a straight-ahead swinger, just like most everyone else does it. That said, her voice is sophisticated enough to hold the listener through to track 2, the lovely bossa title track written by Lee. She proves an agreeable composer again on the slinky "Music of Your Soul," a bluesy number that allows her to bleed between the notes and show off some real soul. Lee shuffles back and forth between swing and bossa easily, but it might be nice to hear a full disc of bossa so she can focus on the expression of that subtle art form. Her band moves along with her, backing her rather than getting in the way, so her voice is the main focus. "S'Wonderful" may be my least favorite vocal tune, perhaps because every toothy-grinning high school choir alive does it with annoying joy, but somehow Lee makes it palatable, mixing it into a bossa-samba stew with "Amor Certinho." Lee's voice will keep her a viable jazz artist for years to come, and hopefully she'll find a bigger audience outside of California.

George Fendel, and Kyle O'Brien




– Midwest Record Recap • May 2009 • CD review: Quiet Joy


Quiet Joy: In the tradition of California cool jazz/big band singers of the 50's, Lee works her way around the classics with a California crew that still remembers Bud Shank and his crew and is out to remember the vibe as oppose to canonize it. Tasty, swinging set from a thrush that can swing, scat and make you feel good by just giving this a spin. Right in the pocket and a gas.

Chris Spector, Arts Reviewer




– Swing2Bop.com • May 2009 • CD review: Quiet Joy


A very pleasing album of good songs, elegantly played and sung showing flair and understanding. No flash and thunder, just first rate musicianship. Jennifer Lee sings with a clear yet subtly mature voice, interpreting the lyrics with charm. Her vocal sound is ably aided and abetted by solid performances from a small gathering of California-based instrumentalists who never put a foot or finger wrong. Peter Sprague plays guitar on ten of the thirteen tracks and bassists Bob Magnusson and Buca Necak share duties while drummer Duncan Moore maintains a subtle pulse on eight tracks. There are other instrumentalists on hand throughout and Jennifer too shows that she is not just a pretty voice, playing guitar on eight tracks and piano on two. The material includes a few standards, some attractive Latin songs, and Jennifer herself has written some rather nice original songs. Altogether, this is a very attractive CD and one that should bring much pleasure to many.

Bruce Crowther




– L.A. Jazz Scene • September 2003 • live concert review


LIVE in Los Angeles

Jennifer Lee is unquestionably a progressive-minded vocalist, who arranges, composes, and plays piano and guitar. However, when singing, she takes listeners back to the era of classic pop and jazz vocalists. When singing at Catalina’s backed by a trio consisting of bassist John Leftwich, saxophonist Tripp Sprague, and guitarist Steve Cotter, she was reminiscent of Peggy Lee, Mary Ford, June Christy and a hip version of Dinah Shore. Lee though, puts an undated spin on the style with extended versions of classic songs. "Night and Day"

was a perfect example, featuring her appealing breathy vocals and a refreshing solo by Sprague. As a treat to the audience, she dusted off forgotten classic "Charmaine" to give it an astonishing beautiful rendition, with only bass and guitar accompaniment. Her cool tone remained in pleasant midrange throughout most of her set, but became brighter for a much-needed change during Ellington’s staple "Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me". Additionally, her trio exhibited verve with Cotter’s lyrical solo and Sprague’s peppy playing

accenting. Leftwich who throughout the set provided a fluid foundation for the others to flow, shined with sultry playing on "The Inchworm". Lee displayed her scatting and spoken word skill, while also soaring in higher registers. Reinforcing her essence, the singer featured "Jaywalkin’" the title track of her CD that showcased her affinity for vintage material and the trio’s talent.

Jean Bartlett, Arts Correspondent




– AllAboutJazz.com • August 2003 • CD review: Jaywalkin’


Listen. What grabs you about Jennifer Lee's artistic approach is her self-assured genuineness. The vocalist's debut CD, Jaywalkin' leaves a strong impression of lack of pretense – what you're hearing is the real Jennifer Lee. And in a female jazz vocalist in a field packed with talent, Ms. Lee is the real thing. Her complete vocal control is part of her appeal; a control that doesn't lend a constrained or stiff feeling to her music, but rather gives it the firm clarity of someone who knows exactly what they're doing. Lee's take on the under-recorded classic "I'm Old Fashioned" is a perfect example and is perhaps the set's loveliest offering. Lee gives it a spare arrangement and slows the melody down, turns the tune towards deep introspection, with a sound that is remarkable for the crystalline clarity of her vocals juxtaposed with the sweet wheezing sighs of Rich Kuhn's accordion.

The rhythm section remains the same throughout — Peter Sprague on guitar, Bob Magnussen, bass, Tommy Aros, percussion. Sprague is a San Diego area jazz mainstay who has played with Chick Corea, Billy Mays and Al Jarreau; and Magnusson, with his big, resonant, rubbery sound, has done bass chores for the likes of Sarah Vaughn, Bud Shank, Hank Jones, and Art Pepper. The arrangements on Jaywalkin’ are credited to Lee and guitarist Sprague, but considering this is the vocalist's debut, one has to suspect the veteran Sprague's contribution is considerable — he also recorded and mixed the CD. Hoagy Carmichael's "Baltimore Oriole" is reportedly Jennifer Lee's show stopper in live performances. Her rendition here has a smoky room, wee hours feel -- a bluesy brooder in the mode of Peggy Lee's (no relation, we can safely assume) "Fever," fingerpops deleted, with Tripp Sprague blowing a slow smolder on tenor sax. The title tune, written by Peter Sprague, has a measured, jaunty spring in its step; and on Jobim's "Chega de Saudade" Jennifer Lee shows us she can handle a Portuguese lyric with aplomb. Throw in the classics "Blue Skies" (sounding very danceable with the bounce Magnusson and Aros give it) and "Night and Day", a poignant Lee-penned tribute, "Note to My Niece", and even a spoken word "Inchworm Rap" tacked on to the classic "The Inchworm." In addition, you have superb sound quality (like they're in the room with you), top notch accompanists, and ultimately, the finest vocal debut of the year thus far, big label or small.

Dan McClenaghan




– AllAboutJazz.com • December 2003 • CD review: Jaywalkin’


From the first note of this debut album, one can't help but be smitten with the charm and delivery of this San Francisco-based singer. I would expect that such an effort would be worthy of a jazz chanteuse on the order of Susannah McCorkle or another San Fran singer, Weslia Whitfield. The album was produced by guitarist Peter Sprague, a personal favorite during the late '70s and '80s. I wasn't surprised to find seven Sprague albums in my collection on Xanadu, Concord and Nova. Jennifer Lee is a late-in-life jazz singer who has studied with Kitty Margolis. She is also the house vocalist at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco.

As a pianist-vocalist, Lee has put together a good mix of standards, some originals and two Brazilian tunes. What is striking is the warmth and clarity of her voice, reminiscent of the June Christy-Chris Connor school of jazz vocals. On three of the tunes - the title tune penned by Sprague, "Baltimore Oriole," and "November in the Snow" from Bill Mays/Mark Murphy – she scats in perfect unison with the accordion of Rich Kuhns and the tenor sax of Tripp Sprague. The result is a delightful musical experience. "Note to my Niece," a Lee original, is a latter day "Waltz For Debby." The Brazilian entries, "Chega de Saudade" and the lesser known "Rosa," coupled with Debussy's "Claire de Lune," are both sung effectively in Portugeuse. Frank Loesser's "Inchworm," not heard too frequently these days, is given an interesting reading replete with a spoken word "rap." The session closes with an original instrumental, "Cathy's Song," written for an ailing friend.

The remainder of the album, "Blue Skies," "Night and Day," "I'm Old Fashioned" and "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone," could have been given a tired presentation inasmuch as they've been heard so often, but Jennifer Lee gives these songs a respectively bright or reflective treatment. All of the musicians chosen for this date play an important part ranging from Sprague and Magnusson's support to the fine tenor sax work of brother Tripp Sprague, subtle percussion from Lewis and Aros, and atmospheric accordion work from Kuhns. I don't know when Ms. Lee will be appearing in the NYC area next, but I do hope that I can be there too.

Michael P. Gladstone




– JazzNow • December 2003 • CD review: Jaywalkin’


Jennifer Lee, vocals, piano; Peter Sprague, guitar; Bob Magnusson, bass; Tommy Aros, percussion; Tripp Sprague, saxophone; Rich Kuhns, accordion; Jason Lewis, drums. Jennifer Lee sings the Jerome Kern/Johnny Mercer number "I'm Old Fashioned" on this CD, and that is all to the good. Jennifer sings with a personal interpretation in a voice that is both sweet and clear. She covers a lot of standards here and does so delicately and delightfully. Cole Porter's "Night and Day" is a gentle pleasure, her collaborator for the arrangement, guitarist Peter Sprague, lays down the accompaniment with charm. "Note To My Niece," written by Jennifer, is a touching ballad supported by Peter Sprague on guitar and the accordion of Rich Kuhns. "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone," is given her own special style with a gentle swing, again the guitar of Peter Sprague supports admirably. Her interesting approach shows in "Rosa/Claire de Lune," unusual to hear an accordion and a guitar playing this Debussy classic, but it works beautifully; her choice of instrumentation for this CD goes a long way in its success.

Ferdinand Maylin




– JazzReview.com • August 2003 • artist interview / CD review


In her debut solo album, Jaywalkin’, Jennifer Lee creates a mellow melting pot of newly arranged standards with a few surprises of her own. Almost daring not to impress, Lee takes on a unique style that we haven’t heard since the days of Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday. Rather than belting out the songs, Lee approaches them with sensitivity and emotion. The result is a luxurious CD in a classic tradition that is sure to impress even the most finicky jazz enthusiast. The most profound quality about Lee is her ability to hone the musical depth of her vocals. Using her voice like an instrument in her rendition of "Blue Skies," Lee avoids a strong chord foundation in the song. Instead, she chooses to blend her voice with the musicians to create an intimate orchestra of complimentary vibrations. This swinging version is sure to set your toes to tapping. Expressiveness is one of Lee’s hallmarks. The title song, "Jaywalkin’," is an empowering story of inner strength. Lee felt an immediate energy when Peter Sprague, co-arranger/guitarist, introduced the song to her. It "really spoke to me," stated Lee. "For me, the message was getting past our own self-imposed limitations. That particular message could probably speak to a lot of women in our culture."

Encouraged by the positive examples in her own life, Lee looked to the San Francisco Bay area veteran, Kitty Margolis, as a mentor. Studying privately with Margolis built up her self confidence. "She [Margolis] believed in me as a singer… encouraged me to do my first demo," said Lee. Margolis taught her "you really gotta press forward and put yourself out there, if you want to do this."

Lee gets a lot of her inspiration from those who have walked before her. One of her favorite singers is Mark Murphy. "When I started listening [to Murphy], it totally changed how I listen to music," stated Lee. Other inspirations include: Sarah Vaughan, Anita O’Day and Diane Reeves. Lee learned a lot by listening to these singers and believes that connecting with the audience is first and foremost.

"Playing music and singing brings me the closest to connecting to everything."

That connectivity shows most strongly in "The Inchworm/Inchworm Rap." This special song features a gentle rap in a luxurious exchange of inner-reflection. Oddly enough, the "Inchworm Rap" didn’t develop itself overnight. Singing the song for a number of years, Lee tried arranging it in a variety of ways. However, it never fully blossomed until she started recording the CD. After plugging away for a few days in the studio, the message of the little inchworm became clear. She thought, "Hey, when are you going to get your head out of the details and look at the big picture." Thus, the "Inchworm Rap" was born. Bringing the album to life is a couple of songs written by Lee. Delving into the human experience, Lee shines in a delicate "Note to My Niece." Tugging at your heartstrings, Lee shares the isolation felt when you love someone out of reach. "Cathy’s Song" was written for a dear friend and features Lee on piano without vocals. This adds a nice touch that shows the wide range of the artist’s capabilities. Lee is definitely not your average entertainer. She sings, plays piano, writes music and is an accomplished arranger. Current plans are for concerts throughout California and Washington. If her live performances are anything like her CD, seeing Lee in person will be well worth the trip.

Cheryl Hughey




– L.A. Jazz Scene • November 2003 • CD review: Jaywalkin’


A warm yet cool-toned and subtle singer based in San Francisco, Jennifer Lee makes her debut as a leader with Jaywalkin’. Her versions of standards are often unusual and full of surprises; Lee and guitarist Peter Sprague are responsible for the arrangements. On "Blue Skies" she sings way behind the beat. "Night and Day" is given a light Latin rhythm, "I’m Old Fashioned" is taken quite slowly and on "Inchworm", she adds an oddly charming talking section in which she philosophizes a bit. The other standards include a very effective "Baltimore Oriole" (which features tenor-saxophonist Tripp Sprague), "Chega De Saudade" and a lighthearted and swinging "Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone". There are also a few originals ("Note to My Niece" is touching), a wordless vocal on Debussy’s "Claire de Lune" and a closing unaccompanied piano solo by Lee that is a tribute to a friend. In addition to the brothers Sprague, Lee is supported by bassist Bob Magnusson, drummer Jason Lewis, percussionist Tommy Aros and occasionally Rich Kuhns on accordion. Throughout the set, it is obvious that a lot of care went into the music and that each song means something to Jennifer Lee. Listeners who enjoy jazz-inspired vocalists who are superior interpreters of lyrics will find that Jaywalkin’ means something to them too. This set is recommended and available from www.jennifer-lee.net.

Scott Yanow




– San Jose Mercury News • September 2003 • CD review: Jaywalkin’


Jennifer Lee celebrates the release of her debut solo album, Jaywalkin’, at The Edge nightclub in Palo Alto on Sunday afternoon, with guitarist Jeff Buenz, bassist John Hettel, percussionist Tim Gutierez and accordionist Rich Kuhns, a gifted musician who has also worked widely with Brazilian jazz singer Claudia Villela. The album was co-produced by Peter Sprague and mostly recorded in his Encinitas studio.

A brilliant San Diego guitarist, Sprague has worked extensively with Chick Corea, Charles McPherson and Hubert Laws. He first heard Lee perform at a Southland jazz spot and was struck by her musicianship and ability to use her relatively small vocal range to maximum advantage. "There were so many elements that impressed me," Sprague says. "A lot of musicians don’t like working with singers because oftentimes there’s this diva approach without much musical knowledge. Jennifer doesn’t have any of that going on. She’s really gutsy.

She’s very happy to sing with one instrument barely playing. She loves space and the drama that it creates." Lee and Sprague’s pianoless arrangements do leave her supple, clear voice plenty of room. From the album’s opening tune, a hard-swinging, harmonically spare version

of "Blue Skys", she is in complete control, a smart vocalist unafraid of emotion. While her renditions of Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer’s "I’m Old Fashioned" and Hoagy Carmichael’s soaring "Baltimore Oriole" are particularly memorable, she is not wedded to standards. The album’s most breathtaking track, inspired by Brazilian star Marisa Monte’s recording, is Lee’s gorgeous Portuguese version of the great samba composer Pixinguinha’s "Rosa", which segues into Debussy’s "Claire de Lune".

Andrew Gilbert




– S.F. Bay Guardian • September 2003 • CD review: Jaywalkin’


Irving Berlin may have written "Blue Skies" in Manhattan, but Bing Crosby gave it a sunny California ambience when he performed it in the 1946 movie musical of the same title. Oakland vocalist Jennifer Lee brings similar light to the tune on her debut CD, J-Walkin', recorded in San Diego with guitarist-producer Peter Sprague, bassist Bob Magnusson, and other world-class players from that area. Lee has an inviting alto tone, with little trace of vibrato, and she phrases with consummate subtlety, a welcome throwback to a school of singers such as June Christy and Chris Connor who were once associated with Stan Kenton's brassy southern California big band. The arrangements here, however, are the opposite of Kenton's. The instrumentation is imaginatively minimal, with the rock-solid Magnusson supplying the primary harmonic underpinning much of the time and accordionist Rich Kuhn adding fibrous warmth when the occasion calls. Lee's enunciation is diamond-clear, whether rendering Cole Porter's English or Antonio Carlos Jobim's Portuguese, and on a couple tunes she also plays some fine piano accompaniment, which is showcased on the lovely original instrumental, "Cathy's Song," that closes this sublime dozen-song set.

Diana Krall, move over!

Lee Hildebrand




– JazzReview.com • May 2009 • CD review: Quiet Joy


Vocalist Jennifer Lee treats audiences to a sun-filled repertoire of American standards, Brazilian classics and three original compositions written by Lee on her latest offering, Quiet Joy. Lee tests her mettle as a singer, composer, guitarist and piano player on this CD, and makes it an album to remember. She is accompanied by musicians who know how to move with the curves of her voice and hold her up when her vocals take flight with Peter Sprague on guitar, David Udolf on piano, Bob Magnusson and Buca Necak on bass, Raul Ramirez on percussion, Duncan Moore on drums, Carter Dewberry on cello, and Tripp Sprague on harmonica and saxophone. Quiet Joy's program contains tunes that have Lee singing in English and Portuguese, which heightens their dreamy spires and relaxing ambiance.

Lee's original tune "Music Of Your Soul" is a zesty jaunt filled with frothy solos from Necak, Sprague and Udolf. She also composed the title track which is nostalgic of classic Brazilian jazz from the '60s. The song was inspired by Lee's new 7-string guitar and the heavenly rustic Mendocino County town of Elk, which has her vocals ascend and ride out the surfs of her band as they keep to a catchy dance rhythm with a Rio de Janeiro lure. The third track which she composed is "You Knew," a tune that has a fine tooling of twittering saxophones played by Tripp Sprague. Lee also indulges in her love of bossa nova with her renditions of Renato Motha's "Menina da Lua" and Roberto Menescal's "O Barquinho." Lee's treatment on tracks like "O Pato" gives its Latin-flavoring a touch of classic swing-jazz beauty. Her refurbishing of Gershwin's "S'Wonderful" has a delightful ringing, and her revival of Johnny Burke and Arthur Johnston's classic tune "Pennies From Heaven" has a soothing effect on the listener. Her vocals resonate with love and cultivate a graceful swagger that expresses pure beauty.

Lee tells in a recent press release, "Positive music is what I want to put out there... music that's about beauty, joy, peace, love, and presence." This describes the music of Quiet Joy perfectly, particularly in her warm interpretation of Frank Churchill and Ned Washington's song for Disney's "Baby Mine." Jennifer Lee brings out the beauty of these songs and shares her love for them with her audience.

Susan Frances




– Midwest Record • July 2018 • CD review: My Shining Hour


Bay area jazz vocalist Lee took her time coming out with her third album because she’s leaving the great American songbook and Brazil behind to show the good stuff that can come pouring out of her own pen. With a bunch of names so heavy on board that you would know them even if you aren’t a Bay area local familiar with the scene, she has the nuance as well as the power to deliver a tour de force that goes the distance. With everyone on board on point throughout, this a real treat from start to finish.

Chris Spector

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– San Diego Union Tribune • August 2018 • CD review: My Shining Hour


Bay Area singer Jennifer Lee to celebrate release of new album with some of San Diego's top musicians

The musical relationship between Bay Area singer Jennifer Lee and top San Diego guitarist Peter Sprague started in 2003. It was then that they teamed for her first album, “Jaywalkin’,” which also featured nationally acclaimed San Diego bassist Bob Magnusson.

On Saturday, Lee and Sprague will perform here at the all-ages Dizzy’s to celebrate the release of her third album, the aptly titled “My Shining Hour.”

Eleven of its 13 songs were written by Lee, who arranged all 13 with Sprague, who also produced her second album. All three were recorded at his Spragueland studio in Encinitas.

Lee, who has a degree in art from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, sings and writes with warmth and clarity. She sparkles whether performing her own material or jazz and Brazilian-music classics.

Released on Sprague’s SBE label, Lee’s new album features Magnusson, Sprague, trumpet great Randy Brecker, percussion dynamo John Santos, violin virtuoso Mads Tolling and leading San Diego drummer Duncan Moore.

Sprague, Moore and veteran San Diego bassist Gunnar Biggs will accompany Lee — who doubles on piano and guitar — at Dizzy’s. They may be joined by at least one guest singer.

Jennifer Lee album release concert, featuring Peter Sprague: 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11. Dizzy’s at Arias Hall (behind the Musician's Association building), 1717 Morena Blvd., Bay Park. $20. (858) 270-7467. dizzysjazz.com

George Varga

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– Pop Culture Classics • August 2018 • CD review: My Shining Hour


The lovely Bay Area singer Jennifer Lee kicks off her new album with the Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer tune "My Shining Hour." It's appropriate, because this is indeed the shining hour for this artist. In addition to showcasing her crystalline voice, the record displays her songwriting talent. Jennifer Lee wrote 11 of the 13 finely crafted songs here. Her melodies, with their pop, jazz and Brazilian elements, entrance. And the lyrics display wit and wisdom. Among the top numbers are the tasty, frolicsome "Crammin' Crepes with Cathy at the Cock-a-Doodle Cafe," the magnetic "Go in Peace," a warm "Home" and the wonderfully winsome ballad "Speak Your Love." "Summertime in October" vividly conjures up vivid images and emotions. Jennifer Lee's vocal on the lilting "Song of Sandra" is both tantalizing and tender. The sincere and personal "Invitation" and "Love That's Real" are transformational experiences. "Song of Happy," the one other song she didn't pen, was written by Abel Zarate, the guitarist who co-wrote the Malo smash "Suavecito." The silkily swinging "What You See Is What You Get" is the finishing touch on this polished, pleasing album. Jennifer Lee is backed by a number of gifted musicians, including vocalist Carey Williams, flugelhorn player Randy Brecker, violinist Mads Tolling and guitarist Peter Sprague. But it's Jennifer Lee's spotlight and, with her sublime, expressive voice she holds it beautifully.

Paul Freeman

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– WTJU New Jazz Adds • September 2018 • CD review: My Shining Hour


“I always wrote a little bit,” says Lee, “but I certainly never thought of myself as a songwriter. Then a shift happened and all this music started channeling in. It’s like some crazy, overactive muse attached itself to me.” (https://www.prweb.com/releases/2018/06/prweb15582739.htm) Her range of styles includes ballads, catchy vocalese numbers and some delightful twists of lyrics and music as well. She composed eleven of the thirteen songs on this disc. Her band, the Ever-Expanding Universe, includes Carey Williams (vocals), Tripp Sprague (sax on 3 songs), Steve Dillard (trumpet on 2 songs), Peter Sprague (guitar on all but 2 songs), Adam Shulman (piano, organ, Rhodes), Gunnar Biggs and Buca (Bootza) Necak (sharing bass duties), Justin Grinnell (electric bass on 2 songs), Duncan Moore (drums), Murray Lowe (piano on 1 song), along with special guests including trumpeter Randy Brecker (flugelhorn on one song), bassist Bob Magnusson (2 songs), Grammy Award-winning violinist Mads Tolling (1 song), and percussion maestro John Santos. There is also string backing on 2 songs. The disc definitely grows on the listener with each listening as the variety of styles and settings are unique.

Dave Rogers

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– Jazz, Bossa and Beyond • October 2018 • CD review: My Shining Hour


Vocal Jazz CD of the Month – October 2018
Jennifer Lee: "My Shining Hour" (SBE Records) 2018
Rating: ***** (music performance & sonic quality)


Featuring: Jennifer Lee (vocals, piano, guitar), Carey Williams (vocals), Peter Sprague (guitar), Randy Brecker (flugelhorn), Adam Shulman (piano, Rhodes electric piano, organ), Murray Low (piano), Bob Magnusson, Gunnar Biggs and Buca 'Bootza' Necak (bass), Justin Grinell (electric bass), Duncan Moore (drums), John Santos (percussion), Rich Kuhns (accordion), Tripp Sprague (sax), Mads Tolling (violin) etc.

With her first two albums, Oakland-based vocalist Jennifer Lee established herself as a gifted interpreter of the American and Brazilian Songbooks, producing a critically hailed body of work. On her new CD, "My Shining Hour," Lee emerges as a composer who, in the nine years since her last release, has developed a striking repertoire exploring the human condition with humor, compassion, and imagination.

“I always wrote a little bit,” says Lee, “but I certainly never thought of myself as a songwriter. Then a shift happened and all this music started channeling in. It’s like some crazy, overactive muse attached itself to me.”

Released on guitarist Peter Sprague’s SBE Records, "My Shining Hour" features Lee in the company of her band, the Ever-Expanding Universe, along with special guests including trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Bob Magnusson, Grammy Award-winning violinist Mads Tolling, and percussion maestro John Santos.

Sprague, known for his extensive work with Chick Corea, Charles McPherson, and Hubert Laws, produced the album, which was recorded at his studio in Encinitas. He also produced Lee’s first two discs—"Jaywalkin’" (2003), named “finest debut of the year, big label or small” by Dan McClenaghan of All About Jazz, and "Quiet Joy" (2009), a mix of originals, standards, and Brazilian songs described as “a JOY from start to finish” by the late drummer and Grammy-nominated producer Bud Spangler.

“Peter is an extraordinary musician and a deeply soulful player,” Lee says. “Working with him over the years, watching how he’ll reharmonize or phrase a line, I’ve learned so much. It’s definitely influenced my writing.”

Lee wrote 11 of the 13 songs on "My Shining Hour"; all 13 were co-arranged by Lee and Sprague. The Harold Arlen-composed title track (and album opener), which contains an original vocalese written by Lee, is dedicated to her stepfather. “Song of Happy,” the other non-original on the album, is an ebullient Latin number by guitarist Abel Zarate, best known as a co-writer of the Malo hit “Suavecito.”

“Song of Happy” and “Perfect Rendezvous” are duets pairing Lee’s light and bright sound with the warm, resonant baritone of Carey Williams, Jennifer’s life partner and musical collaborator who played with Zarate in the 1970s rock/funk/fusion band The Force. “Carey and I had been performing ‘Song of Happy’ live since 2011, and I fell in love with the song. It’s just so fun and uplifting,” Lee says. “When I brought it to Peter, he created a super-dynamic arrangement for it, which inspired me to write that intricate tapestry of background vocals. The recording is a gift we get to give to Abel.”

Other album highlights are the soulful ballads “Speak Your Love” and “Home,” and the playful, gospel-like “Crammin’ Crepes with Cathi at the Cock-a-Doodle Café,” a tribute to the late jazz singer/songwriter and Jennifer’s close friend Cathi Walkup: “She was a very clever lyricist who encouraged my songwriting endeavors before I ever thought of myself as a songwriter.”

Born in 1964 in Redwood City, just south of San Francisco, and raised in nearby Menlo Park, Jennifer Lee ended up at Menlo-Atherton High School as a pianist to take advantage of the school’s respected jazz program. She continued her jazz piano studies at Foothill College, often accompanying vocalists, all the while nursing her secret desire to sing. She didn’t take the plunge until an early, unwanted glimpse at mortality radically changed her priorities in the late 1980s, when she dropped out of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst to tend to her stricken father.

“My dad got really sick and I came back from school to take care of him,” Lee says. “He died the next year. He was only 51. That really brought things into focus for me. I realized that none of us knows how long we have here on planet earth, so I’d better do what I want to do now.” After her father’s passing, she returned to the Foothill College music department, but instead of backing other singers she took over the microphone herself.

Subsequently studying with esteemed Bay Area jazz singer Kitty Margolis, Lee gradually worked up the courage to start performing in public and honed her jazz technique on a succession of regular gigs around the Bay Area. She made her first appearance on CD in 2001 on "Quintessential," an album featuring three tracks each by five Bay Area singers, including Jenna Mammina and Cathi Walkup.

“It took me so long to come to singing—to finally admit to myself that this is really what I want to do,” says Lee. “Then it took another decade-plus for the songwriter in me to emerge. I’m the epitome of the late bloomer.”

Jennifer Lee brings her Ever-Expanding Universe band to Dizzy’s in San Diego, 8/11, and the Sound Room, Oakland, 9/23, for a pair of concerts showcasing "My Shining Hour."

Arnaldo DeSouteiro

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– All About Jazz • August 2018 • CD review: My Shining Hour


Who ever said the only thing good to come out of Oakland was The Tower of Power? What about vocalist/composer/multi-instrumentalist Jennifer Lee? Her previous recordings, Jaywalkin' (2003) and Quiet Joy (2009), both on producer/arranger Peter Sprague's SBE Records established Lee as authority on the American and Brazilian Songbooks. My Shining Hour frames Lee as a composer who, in the nine years since her last release, has cultivated a rich and original repertoire addressing what it is to be human in all of its glory. Lee's ensemble, the Ever-Expanding Universe, is a collective of musicians that includes trumpeter Randy Brecker, violinist Mads Tolling, keyboardist Adam Schulman and bassist Bob Magnusson among many others. Only two of the baker's dozen songs are standards, the title track and Abel Zarate's "Song of Happy," both melding well with Lee's original compositions. Lee shares production and arranging duties with Sprague, the results being a plush and multi-layered sound that captures well the tonal complexities of these performances. Lee exhibits a great stage presence in composition and performance on the-made-for-Broadway "Crammin' Crepes with Cathi at the Cock-a-Doodle Café" and an even more accomplished ballad composing style. Coupled with her ensemble, My Shining Hour is a full-figured jazz release beckoning a listen.

C. Michael Bailey

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– Jazz Weekly • October 2018 • CD review: My Shining Hour


WOMEN AT THE MIC & PEN…Kate Reid: The Heart Already Knows, Jennifer Lee: My Shining Hour, Johnaye Kendrick: Flying

Standards, originals, obscurities? Here, three women vocalists create their own mix and match.

Husky voiced Kate Reid delivers a collection of duets with the sensitive partners Taylor Eigsti/p, Fred Hersch/p, Larry Koonse/g, Romero Lubambo/g and Paul Meyers/g for intimate interpretations. Hersch uses his own rich songbook for the impressionistic “No More” and warm mooded “Lazin’ Around With You” while the two get crystal night delicate on “If I Should Lose You.” Reid and Eigsti are dreamy during “Busy Being Blue,” with Koonse she is cozy on “Confessin’” and wistful during “ Two Grey Rooms.” Lubambo brings out her sensuality during “Sars” and “Minds of Their Own” and she shows her swing with Meyers on “Something to Live For” and “Just Lucky So and So.” Delightful duets.

Jennifer Lee is with The Ever-Expanding Universe of musicians on this ambitions album with strings, horns and rhythm in a variety of conglomerations. She has a personal touch to her voices, working well on the Latin “Go In Peace” and the tender take of “My Shining Hour.” Her delivery is poppish on “What You See Is What You Get” and ”Song of Sandra” while getting folksy and intimate as she plays acoustic guitar on “Home.” Her piano work is night club relaxed on the soft “Speak Your Love” while she slinks to Tripp Sprague’s tenor sax on “Perfect Rendezvous.” Gentle ambitions.

Johnaye Kendrick sings with a rich and flexible voice while playing harmonium with Dawn Clement/p, Chris Symer/b, D’Vonne Lewis/dr, Michael Nicolella/g and Adore Oliver-Nola Oliver/voc. Many of the pieces are her own, and she is not intimidated by exotic drums on the clear toned “Never You Mind” while she goes indie with Symer on a lovely “You Two” and a cozy title track with Nicolella. She feels urgent on the Crescent City grooved “Scropion” and gets gospel pulsed on a funky “Boxed Wine.” A clever take of John Mayer’s “3×5” has her in a misty mood and she is sensuously subdued on “The Very Thought of You.” Any trips to So Cal coming up?

George W. Harris

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