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Julie Dexter made a triumphant return to Blues Alley in Washington DC after a seven-year absence. A full house greeted the British-born/Atlanta-based chanteuse with a warm welcome. Julie returned the favor with a swinging jazzed-up version of Beyonce’s hit “Déjà Vu.” It made for quite an opening and set the stage for an evening filled with clever arrangements and imaginative surprises.

Julie sang songs from all her CD releases. From ‘Conscious’, she sang “Choices,” a song that speaks about the decisions we make in life and the lasting effects they have on us. She also set the dreamscape for the romantic fantasy called “Like Ours,” about two opposites that attract and unite.

Ms. Dexter assembled an amazing group of musicians to accompany her on this date and, appropriately, introduced them early in the set: Jason Holt on drums, Walter Cosby on bass, Aaron Hardin on keys and Robbie McDonald on guitar. From her first EP ‘Peace of Mind’ she sang “What Do I Do” relating the quandary about a broken relationship. Her interplay with the drummer was remarkable on this number.

Julie really appreciated being at the venerable Blues Alley, relating her delight at sharing the stage with legendary figures like Sarah Vaughan and John Coltrane. She also took advantage of being in a “jazz” venue that allows an artist to freely interpret a song. Then she showed it by offering her own stirring version of Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue,” a standard which has been recorded by Coltrane, Nina Simone and Dianne Reeves to name a few.

We were treated to some material from Julie’s forthcoming CD called ‘New Again’. The first single, “Broke Up About It” proved a bit controversial and humorous when she attempted to explain to the audience that it is “the other-woman’s story”. But once they heard the song, it became clear. She also did the funky groove “Transitions” that she recorded with Zo! (from Foreign Exchange). This was well received by the crowd.

Besides her warm demeanor with the audience, Julie had remarkable rapport with her band, especially considering they had had only one rehearsal the day before. That was a mark of professionalism on all their parts. They watched her for cues and followed perfectly.

For the last few numbers, Julie moved to the piano. One of her favorite songs to perform live is “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.” On this night, Lucy took a “Maiden Voyage” trip that was simply sublime. What a creative arrangement Ms. Dexter crafted, blending The Beatles and Herbie Hancock! Her closing number, “Ketch A Vibe” has become a trademark of sorts for her. This driving cut is tailor made for a drummer like Jason to show what he’s made of and he was definitely up for the task.

Once again Julie Dexter proved she is one of the most versatile and fearless artists out right now. Seeing her live is always a revelation and she gets the highest recommendation for providing a thoroughly rewarding experience. She certainly got 2011 off to an exciting start.

About the Writer
Michael Lewis is a long-time associate at His industry experience includes Sony Music, Motown and La Face Records, and a tenure at HEAR Music. He is grateful to contribute to sustaining the legacy of R&B and soul music.


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Julie Dexter 2010 Interview
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