Since her captivating debut in 2009, jazz vocalist Sylvia Brooks has displayed a gift for inhabiting different personas, with a subspecialty in film-noir inspired femmes fatale. On this, her fourth album, she embraces the most challenging role of all, defining herself with a set of beautifully crafted original songs. Her evocative lyrics and emotionally direct delivery imbue the music with hard-won authenticity. Whether looking back with wry affection on her walk-on-the-wild-side youth or lamenting a lost love, Brooks brings bracing honesty and poise to the material. Artistically, she is collaborating with Southern California’s most creative accompanists: ace pianists Tom Ranier, Jeff Colella, and Christian Jacob designed beguiling, harmonically rich settings for her incisive lyrics. The stellar rhythm section tandem of drummer Ray Brinker and bassist Trey Henry appear on almost every track. This album marks a quantum leap reflecting years of concentrated effort. “I really worked hard on trying to make the stories deeper and richer,” she says, “each song is really a story within itself.”