Though Amber Weekes’ spirited bio includes mention that her paternal grandparents ran a famed Harlem luncheonette where Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte hung out, there’s no back story necessary to appreciate the heartfelt, expansive artistry the popular L.A. based club singer brings to her latest sprinkling of musical glory that is - true to its title and artistically speaking - a work of Pure Imagination.
Backed by some of her adopted city’s most notable musicians, she draws us in with her pin drop exquisite voice and stylistic eclecticism (jazz, Brazlian, swing, soul) to shed fresh light on lyrics we thought we understood. Collaborating with violinist/arranger Mark Cagill, she “begins with a spin,” duetting gleefully with her longtime teacher, Grammy nominee Sue Raney, on a breezy bossa twist through the title track.
Weekes’ adventurousness lets us experience her mining everything from the Great American Songbook (Cole Porter, Ellington) to “The Way He Makes Me Feel” from Yentl to the beautiful Barry Manilow/Johnny Mercer reflection “When October Goes” – the latter rendered as both a brisk bossa and sensual ballad.
Though Weekes’ prefers venturing delightfully all over the map rather than stick to a theme, the emotional core of the collection comes via three classic, socially relevant tunes by Oscar Brown, Jr. Pure Imagination is a revelatory work from an artist the world beyond the L.A. jazz scene needs to hear more of.