Review from Washington CityPaper November 10, 1989 by Reuben Jackson
One generally doesn’t see the fervent playing that pianist Judith Kessler offered during a recent performance at the Old Post Office Pavilion. And that’s too bad. Kessler’s set, which consisted primarily of materials taken from the American popular songbook as well as well-known jazz compositions like Kenny Dorham’s Blue Bossa, was marked by a lyricism redolent of Bill Evans and a left hand a lot of fellow pianists and a few boxers would kill for. Kessler is hardly a mere lunch-hour cocktails ivory-tickler; her solo lines ran around and through the chord changes with the determination of a running back inches from paydirt without sacrificing lyricism and melodic invention.
You would think someone with such a flair for improvisation must have eaten and slept jazz for years, but that’s not the case with Kessler. While the D.C-area native has worked with the likes of Ronnie Wells (vocalist) and Ron Elliston (pianist), she considers Bartok, Debussy, Gershwin, and John Cage among her favorite composers. She’s managed to write original lyrics to classic jazz tunes like Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma” and is currently rehearsing with her French Classical Jazz Ensemble, whose repertoire, she says, will consist of “romantic and continental” pieces like John Lewis’ Afternoon in Paris and more classically oriented material by French composers. Stay tuned for more about the ensemble, which, in addition to Kessler, consists of bassist Scott Giambusso, drummer Scott Taylor and flutist Robbie Robinson… In the meantime, Kessler plays at the Pavilion No 13th,16th,and 24th at noon.