So much so that Justin Time now has released nine of Brown’s albums over the past 16 years.
Jeri Brown’s latest CD consists of a compilation from her Justin Time albums, including one track from each of them. In addition, Brown has included four new recordings that include her most recent musical collaborators singer Yves-Aimé Pierre, pianist Simon Sloutsker, bassist Clinton Rider and drummer Dominique Côté. So, New Wonderland covers much of the breadth of Brown’s singing career, or at least her growth throughout her years on the Justin Time label.
New Wonderland starts auspiciously, with Brown’s recording of "No Moon at All," backed by Fred Hersch. The accompanist’s accompanist, Hersch helped to start Brown’s recording activities on a high note, so to speak, with his perceptive combination of percussiveness, interwoven harmonic lines and unexpected re-modulations, always highlighting the appeal of Brown’s expressive voice. The remainder of New Wonderland is notable for Brown’s ability to deliver consistently engaging interpretations of both standards and original compositions, particularly "New Wonderland," co-written with Sloutsker. A wish for peace and hope, Brown’s song envisions the future based upon the potential of children as they "sing a song of faith," rather than encountering the hardships of life.
All of her albums include top-shelf musicians in collaboration with her. New Wonderland includes, for example, Jimmy Rowles performing his own piece, "Old Orleans," with Brown as she delivers his expectedly witty lyrics over its shuffle rhythm. Or Brown performs "Orange-Colored Sky" with Kirk Lightsey, Peter Leitch, Rufus Reid and Wali Muhammad. One would assume that by now the song is owned by Nat and Natalie Cole and would wonder what else could be done to differentiate a version of it. Indeed, Brown’s initial delivery of the song invites the question as she sings it in her own straightforward manner. Cannily, Brown’s recording features the musicians, as Lightsey and Leitch heighten its intensity with dynamically elevating solos. As the performance rises through layer upon layer of excitement, it includes with a smashing finish that finally distinguishes Brown’s rendition as separate from the others that preceded it.
Besides the fact that New Wonderland represents an opportunity to survey the variety and consistency that characterize Brown’s singing, it also offers novel vocal duets as Brown shares the spotlight with males singers for vocal contrast and lyrical elucidation. Leon Thomas takes the melodic lead of "Oo-Shoo-Be-Doo-Be" as Brown sings harmony in fifths above the tonal center as the wit of the words and the charm of the wordless chorus elicit smiles. Four of her duets with Yve-Aimé Pierre are new to this recording, including the impressive "Fireflies," a contrast between the soft beginning and pianist Sloutsker’s aggressive mid-track solo, which concludes this satisfying survey of Jeri Brown’s Justin-Time recordings.