In Walked You, the new album from Miami-based jazz vocalist Paulette Dozier, is an eclectic blend of old standards, new pop classics and original compositions. She is accompanied by Mike Levine on piano, Sammy Levine on drums, and bassist Jamie Ousley (whose own album was a smooth jazz gem), and a variety of guest soloists on individual tracks. Most often a tune comes off at least in part as a duet between the rich-voiced Dozier and either longtime musical partner Levine’s piano or one of the soloists. Dozier works with each instrumentalist with gem-like precision.
The album begins with an uptempo treatment of the Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer classic “The Days of Wine and Roses,” where she is joined with Nicole Yarling on the electric violin. This is followed by an original upbeat take on that old chestnut “Autumn Leaves,” with some driving piano from Levine. As she points out on her website, she and Levine were looking for new ways to handle these longtime favorites. Other classic tracks include “Sunny,” where she has sweet interaction with the flute of Domenica Fossati, and “Let’s Fall in Love,” where she works with John Lovell’s mellow-toned flugelhorn.
Contemporary classics include Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are,” “Proud Mary,” with some nice help of the alto sax from Jesse Jones, Jr., and “Loving You.” Two highlights because they seem especially suited to Dozier’s voice are “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” and a funky “Summer Breeze,” which closes the album. Levine’s piano adds a joyful exploration on this last as indeed it does on the whole album. It is both a revelation and a pleasure to hear what a fine jazz stylist can do with a modern pop lyric. It makes you wonder why they don’t do it more often.
Three Dozier-Levine and Latin-flavored originals round out the album. “In Walked You,” which gives the album its title, has a somewhat tortured lyric and a retro melody which Dozier does her best to sell. Their 2007 collaboration “Together Yet Alone,” another Latin number, and their 2005 “With You” are another story. They are both more effective examples of the team’s writing. This last one features some nice accents from Dan Warner on guitar.
Paulette Dozier may not be a household name, but it is a name jazz lovers should remember. If this new album is any indication, this is a lady who knows what she’s doing with a lyric. Check out her website for a teaser and an explanation of the kinds of choices she made for the album.