Paula West Channels
Paula West, easily one of the finest young jazz singers working today, is finally starting to receive the international attention she's deserved since her 1997 debut. Being based in San Francisco instead of Manhattan has probably hurt her career some but perhaps it has also allowed her to develop a distinct style of her own. West knows that being a jazz singer is different than showing off and she digs deep into tunes, concentrating on shifts in emotion and meaning rather than vocal pyrotechnics (think of the cool sides of Carmen McRae or Cassandra Wilson instead of the always-go-for-broke Betty Carter). West re-illuminates standards such as "If I Only Had a Brain" and puts a personal spin on offbeat tunes, infusing the dark "Who Will Buy" from Oliver with even more dread and replacing the Beatles' melancholy with joy on "Fixing A Hole." Her 1999 release, Restless is a must have for vocal jazz fans, and should convert any non-appreciators of the form to her noble cause but it was 2001's Come What May that earned West rave reviews everywhere from Downbeat and the New York Times to Liz Smith's gossip column. Diana Krall's A&R department should get in touch with Paula West but quick -- once exposed to it, modern pop audiences will flock to her classic sound in droves.