I was at the Blue Note Jazz Club setting up my cameras to document the Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards, and so was in the room during sound check. With all the prep for the event going on, it was not particularly quiet, but even with all the distraction of my own devoir, I immediately noted that someone very fine indeed was getting her microphone level checked. I decided that I would make a special effort to capture Paulette McWilliams' set.
I'm glad I did. Paulette, as you will hear, has a wonderfully rich, warm voice. And for all I know I may have heard it many times before without knowing who I was listening to, because she is a very in-demand session singer in LA. She's worked and toured with the biggies, from Quincy Jones, to Bette Midler (as a Harlette) and sung for high profile commercials too numerous to list here. (And why should I give them a plug, right?)
"Don't go to Strangers" is one of the songs off her CD Telling Stories on Reviver Records. It's a bittersweet ballad, one that reminds you straight away that sometimes the right vehicle for a particular sentiment can only be Jazz, and Paulette sings it so comfortably it sounds like it was written for her. She's backed up here by Nat Adderley Jr.on piano and Trifon Dimitrov on bass.
When I later asked Howard Mandel, the president of the JJA, how he had come to choose Paulette to be one of the acts for the awards gala, he made a good point, writing back,
Paulette has had a long career of singing with others, mostly on the r&b side of the jazz spectrum, but just last year came out with that debut album. We (jazz journalists in general) are often being introduced to bright young singers, but I think it's important to realize there are mid-career artists taking the challenge of expanding on their careers, trying something new, and Paulette embodied that successfully.
I agree. Artistry is artistry, no matter the age. So if you're feeling stressed and want to curl up with a bit of musical caressing from a woman who knows whereof she sings, enjoy this snapshot from the JJA awards.