CD Review:

The Small Hours
By Chuck Graham

Grade: A

In your heart, are you more East Coast than West Coast? Would you rather be
nursing a drink in a lower Manhattan cabaret near the subway or driving for hours in
Los Angeles traffic to reach a jazz club stuck in a strip mall?

East Coasters who are living out here in the desert will be happy to discover Andrea
Wolper, a singer with an uncanny emotional touch for the past 50 years of jazz. She
fills torch songs with sensual longing, then makes abstract vocal improvisations feel
intimate as meaningful conversation. Even though Wolper grew up in California, the
experience didn't cause her permanent damage.

The core of Wolper's sound is a hip tenderness that inspires trust as she works
through a song mix of lesser-known standards and a few originals.

Listen to the forgotten gem "Small Day Tomorrow," hear the bittersweet resignation
she finds in understated chord changes that make a virtue of reluctance. Test the
undercurrents of anger and hurt she finds in the pensive "Moanin," written by Jon
Hendricks. Every vowel, every note projects a different shade of blue.

Working with longtime colleagues Ken Filiano, bass; and Ron Affif, guitar; the singer also explores
angular landscapes that defy modernist expectations. On her own composition, "Rendezvous in
Providence," she creates auras of shimmering Middle Eastern caravans, improvising to unplayed rhythms
all three musicians intuitively understand. This is mind-stretching music, thoughtful instead of atonal,
encouraging rather than confrontational. It is highly recommended for anyone who believes in the timeless
essence of cool.

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