Classy, consistent, and exceptional. Those three words characterize contemporary jazz singer-songwriter Lindsey Webster exceptionally. Webster possesses a radiant musical instrument — her stunning voice. The aforementioned qualities carry over onto her debut for Shanachie, Back to Your Heart (her third album overall). Through the course of 11 songs, she introduces herself as a force to be reckoned with. Contemporary jazz is arguably the best characterization stylistically, but she shows a range that transcends jazz, incorporating elements of pop and soul.
Title track “Back to Your Heart” initiates the album soundly. Webster delivers sultry vocals employing a “cool, calm, and collected” approach. She never has to push, singing with an incredible ease. The production work is exceptional, sounding uncluttered, neatly assembled, and featuring the right amount of oomph. “Back to Your Heart” blends jazz, easy listening, and R&B seamlessly.
“Where Do You Want to Go” keeps the momentum afloat. Nice touches of synths provide subtle contrast. An unpredictable harmonic progression proves to be alluring. Webster maintains her poise but lets loose during the addition of ad libs during the second verse. A thoughtful guitar solo and a concluding vamp section based upon the titular lyric serve as strong selling points.
“I Know You Well” features some bossa nova influence, without fully committing to it. Nonetheless, it serves as a contrast to what precedes it. The results remain respectable, with Webster flaunting the robustness of her pipes. “Those Three Words” is stronger, ranking among the crème de la crème of Back to Your Heart. Arguably, the record gives Webster her best vocal performance. Her vocals are pure, showcasing incredible control. Even so, she also showcases her power at the appropriate musical times. Her best moment comes as she chillingly sustains a high note at the end of the bridge. “Those Three Words” is dreamy, embodying the sentiment of “I love you”.
Webster gets an assist from Kirk Whalum on groovy “One at a Time”. Throughout most of the verses, she resides in her rich low register. By the refrain, however, she ascends, showcasing an equally alluring upper register. Whalum’s saxophone playing is subtle initially as he complements Webster, but intensifies during a tasteful solo. Follow up “On Our Way” notably retains the same key and similar tempo. There is a notable contrast: the use of synths. The synths are prudently used in moderation, providing a unique timbre.
Synths reappear on highlight “Somehow” in a larger capacity. The keyboard work, in general, is exceptional. “Somehow” blends the slick, cool sounds of smooth jazz and pop-soul superbly. Arguably, Webster never “goes for the kill”. She doesn’t need to. She has a magnificent knack for balancing poise and providing a respectable amount of bite. “Living a Lie” slackens the pace, giving Webster a radiant ballad to show off the sheer beauty of her pipes.
The tempo doesn’t remain slow for long. “Ain’t It Funny” ranks among the most spirited, quick songs from Back to Your Heart. The M.O. is familiar: incredible poise on the verses, with an extra bite on the refrain. The refrain is one of the most memorable, with Webster agilely delivering the heat. The vocal execution is flawless, particularly as she facilitates her falsetto (for lack of a better word). The saxophonist delivers a tremendous solo to conclude the record.
Penultimate record “Next to Me” is “in the pocket”, retaining the utmost consistency. Closer “Fast and Slow” is more alluring, with Webster showing off her soulful chops. Still embracing her jazzier roots, there’s clearly a strong infusion of R&B that can appeal to numerous audiences. The production is sensational, mixing acoustic and electronic masterfully. Once more, she flawlessly facilitates her upper register.
Throughout the course of Back to Your Heart, Lindsey Webster sounds effortless. During its hour duration, she never misses the mark. She doesn’t “reinvent the wheel” but doesn’t need to. She keeps contemporary jazz alive and well, and doesn’t allow the style to confine her in the least. In other words, contemporary jazz is simply a springboard for Webster, and she takes it runs with it. All in all, Back to Your Heart is a winner.