hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires


Arts and Culture November 2014


Musical moods, meditations

Caffe Lena show marks Spa City songwriter’s new recording


Judy Joy Wyle will celebrate the release of her new CD, ‘Girl in the Silver Leaves,’ with a concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22, at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs. Joan K. Lentini photoBy STACEY MORRIS
Contributing writer


Judy Joy Wyle breezed down the crowded Broadway sidewalk, lithely navigating among slow-moving pedestrians, darting deliverymen and parked bicycles.

As a fixture in Saratoga Springs for 30-plus years, Wyle is practically a native, easily recognized by local people emerging from Northshire Books or the Uncommon Grounds coffee house.

On a recent afternoon, she serenely but purposefully followed a course to the Joy of Yoga, the yoga studio at 376 Broadway that she has operated since 1989.

“It’s the city’s first dedicated yoga studio,” Wyle said of the space where she guides students through breathing techniques, asanas, pre-natal yoga and individual sessions of yoga therapy.
But confining Wyle to a singular passion is like trying to hook a butterfly to a leash. In addition to teaching yoga, she also is a certified Ayurvedic nutrition practitioner, teaches voice lessons, and has also been singing on stage for nearly 40 years since her college days in Mill Valley, Calif.
“I’d sung since childhood but always thought of myself as an actress,” Wyle recalled. “At a theater workshop in college, we had to prepare songs and sing solo. I remember practicing in front of the mirror one day and just suddenly felt my voice.”

Until that moment, she intended to follow acting as a career path.

“I knew immediately that singing was my calling,” she said. “It was the greatest single moment of self-discovery of my life. I remember calling my brother from a pay phone and shouting, ‘Steve, Steve, I’ve just found my voice!’”

That discovery led Wyle, who grew up in Utica, back to her roots on the East Coast to pursue singing and songwriting. For a time she sang in the Skyland Band on Martha’s Vineyard before heading to New Haven, Conn., where she sang with two big bands.


Settling in Saratoga
Wyle moved to Saratoga Springs in 1983 and began performing with local musicians, including Carl Landa and Cole Broderick. She also finished her theater degree at Skidmore College’s University Without Walls program and became a founding member of Home Made Theater. It was a creatively fertile time for the singer, who was simultaneously taking a 280-hour yoga teacher training course through Kripalu in Stockbridge, Mass.

As Wyle began teaching a full roster of classes, she also realized the discipline of yoga enhanced her singing ability.

“Yoga absolutely helps strengthen my voice; it’s all about breathing, centering, and accessing yourself,” she explained.

Wyle said the songwriting process also helps her to access the deepest part of herself.
Her first CD, released in 1999, was a 12-song rock-tinged compilation, “Fire in Your Heart,” with her band at the time, Hidden River.

Nearly 15 years later, her second album, “Girl in the Silver Leaves,” is being released this month.
“As a singer-songwriter, I have a really big body of songs, written over the course of my life,” she said. “The first CD was only a small part of that, so I wanted to record more of my material. There’s an autobiographical process with all my songs. They’re all such a part of me -- I am my songs.”

In recent years, Wyle has been performing solo and with keyboardist Azzaam Hameed. When she decided the time had come to record her second album, Wyle sought out Hameed’s skills as an arranger.

“Working with Azzaam is different in terms of the arrangements, because he’s really rooted in an R&B and jazz genre, whereas songs from my first album were set in a broader rock genre, and I love both,” she said.


Years in the making
The new CD has eight songs. Wyle returned to Blue Sky Studio in Delmar, where she’d recorded the 1999 album, and began what turned out to be a years-long process to complete the new recording.

To Hameed’s keyboard arrangements, arranging she layered sounds from The Blue Sky Project: Carl West on bass, Rich Johnson on guitar, and Scott Apicelli, who is also Blue Sky Studio’s owner and the album’s sound engineer, on drums. The album also features appearances by Jonathan Green on clarinet, Doug Johnson on harmonica, Keith Pray on tenor sax and Monica Roach on cello. Back-up vocals are provided by Perley Rousseau Smith, Wyle’s goddaughter Rain Rousseau Smith, Jean O’Connor, and 8-year-old Jayda Chance, one of Wyle’s voice students.

“The Blue Sky Project came together on two separate weekends in 2012 to lay down tracks,” Wyle recalled. “The first recording was the first time we all met. After that, it was a matter of scheduling vocals and bringing in the other musicians. I had a feeling it was going to be a really great mix of people, and it was.”

The singer likens the creative process at the recording studio to a chef alchemizing a masterful meal.

“You have an idea what herbs might taste good, and you include them,” she said with a smile. “I love the studio process. It asks of you to listen in a way that’s very concentrated because you’re weaving a tapestry of sound.”

Wyle became so immersed in the process that she has an arranging and co-producing credit on the new album.

“Sometimes when I listen to the music on this album, it makes me swoon,” she said. “And so much of that is Scott’s amazing engineering.”

But at the heart of the project are Wyle’s songs, which she describes as reflective.

“The title cut is a retrospective song about a time in my life,” she said. “‘I Pray for Love’s Eyes’ is a prayer for love. And ‘Moonwalk’ is inspired by Michael Jackson’s funeral. ‘Express Your Love’ is an homage to Joan Armitrading who wrote a song years ago about showing emotion and putting expression in your eyes. Throughout is a theme of the need for gentleness and love in these contemporary times … to bring us out of this incredibly fast, sound-bite-oriented society.”

Wyle will celebrate the release of the new album’s release later this month when she, Hameed, The Blue Sky Project and some of the guest musicians converge on stage Nov. 22 at Caffe Lena.
“My last concert at Caffe Lena was just with Azzaam and I,” she said. “This time it’s going to be very different, because there will be so many people in the show. Everyone will be there but the cellist and tenor sax player, and that’s because there’s no room on stage.”

The show will mark the culmination of a labor of love, Wyle said.

“It’s a beautiful album and I feel blessed,” she said. “In a way, the album advocates for what all the great spiritual paths teach, which is loving kindness.”


Judy Joy Wyle’s second album, “Girl in the Silver Leaves: Judy Joy Wyle and The Blue Sky Project,” is released this month and is available at CDBaby.com, at Celtic Treasures in Saratoga Springs, and by e-mailing joyone22@icloud.com.

Wyle and her band will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22, at Caffe Lena, at 47 Phila St. in Saratoga Springs. Call (518) 583-0022 for more information.