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Julie Kelly: Happy to Be

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Julie Kelly: Julie Kelly: Happy to Be How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Julie Kelly
Julie Kelly
Julie Kelly
b.1947
is a talented singer whose talents are a fairly well-kept secret except on the West Coast, where she makes her home. Happy to Be is Kelly's eighth album, the first on Graham Carter's Colorado-based Jazzed Media label, and as has been her custom in the past, she chooses for the most part interesting songs that aren't heard nearly often enough. Compositions by Dave Frishberg
Dave Frishberg
Dave Frishberg
b.1933
piano
, Bob Dorough
Bob Dorough
Bob Dorough
b.1923
piano
, Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
1927 - 1994
piano
, Richard Rodney Bennett and even Phoebe Snow
Phoebe Snow
Phoebe Snow
1952 - 2011
vocalist
are here, hanging out alongside engaging themes by such lesser-known but no less able writers as Bill Peterson, Jim Tomlinson
Jim Tomlinson
Jim Tomlinson
b.1966
and Susan Marder. Kelly handles each one with care, paying close attention to mood, dynamics and articulation while interpreting lyrics in a straightforward manner that eschews needless embroidery.

Whether Kelly is a "jazz singer" is a matter of opinion. Even though she scats only briefly, and doesn't turn a lyric inside out like, say, Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
1924 - 1990
vocalist
, Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
1917 - 1996
vocalist
or Carmen McRae
Carmen McRae
Carmen McRae
1920 - 1994
vocalist
, she clearly knows how to swing, as she shows on Peterson's "Happy to Be," Dorough's "You're the Dangerous Type" or Thad Jones
Thad Jones
Thad Jones
1923 - 1986
trumpet
' "High in the Sky," and is rhythmically sharp as well. Perhaps Kelly's strongest bond to jazz, however, lies in her supporting cast, which embodies an A-list of Southern California's busiest and most accomplished sidemen. The rhythm section (Bill Cunliffe
Bill Cunliffe
Bill Cunliffe
b.1956
piano
, piano; Anthony Wilson
Anthony Wilson
Anthony Wilson
b.1968
guitar
, guitar; Tom Warrington, bass; Joe LaBarbera
Joe LaBarbera
Joe LaBarbera
b.1948
drums
, drums; Walter Rodriguez, percussion) is beyond reproach, as is a front line comprised of trumpeters Clay Jenkins
Clay Jenkins
Clay Jenkins
b.1964
trumpet
and Ron Stout, saxophonists Bob Sheppard and Kim Richmond
Kim Richmond
Kim Richmond

saxophone
, trombonist Bob McChesney
Bob McChesney
Bob McChesney

trombone
and vibraphonist Nick Mancini.

Cunliffe, who plays synthesizer on several numbers, steps aside on Tomlinson's amiable "I Wish I Could Go Traveling Again" (lyric by Kazuo Ishiguro) in favor of John Proulx who duets with Kelly on his own arrangement of the tune. Proulx, whose style is reminiscent of the late Chet Baker
Chet Baker
Chet Baker
1929 - 1988
trumpet
, sings in a range so close to Kelly's that it's sometimes hard to tell who's who. That's not a problem elsewhere, as Kelly glides easily through a tantalizing melange of ingredients that begins with Snow's dreamy "Harpo's Blues" and continues through "Happy to Be" (written by Peterson and Inga Swearingin as a tribute to Bobby McFerrin
Bobby McFerrin
Bobby McFerrin
b.1950
vocalist
), Frishberg's "Our Love Rolls On," Jobim's "Corcovado," Roger Kellaway
Roger Kellaway
Roger Kellaway
b.1939
piano
's "I Have the Feeling I've Been Here Before" (lyric by Marilyn and Alan Bergman), "The Blues According to Orpheus" (which Kelly co-wrote with Rich Eames, Jeff D'Angelo and David Hocker), Bennett's "I Never Went Away" and Marder's "For Joni," in addition to the songs already noted. When she's not singing, there are brief but persuasive solos by Cunliffe, Wilson, Sheppard, Jenkins, Stout, McChesney and LaBarbera.

Splendid singer, commendable teammates, unerring choice of material. They add up to a well-earned endorsement for Julie Kelly and Happy to Be.

Track Listing: Harpo’s Blues; Happy to Be; Our Love Rolls On; You’re the Dangerous Type; Corcovado; I Have the Feeling I’ve Been Here Before; The Blues According to Orpheus; I Wish I Could Go Traveling Again; I Never Went Away; High in the Sky; For Joni.

Personnel: Julie Kelly: vocals; Clay Jenkins: trumpet; Ron Stout: flugelhorn; Bob Sheppard: saxophone, flute; Kim Richmond: saxophone; Bob McChesney: trombone; Nick Mancini: vibraphone; Bill Cunliffe: piano, synthesizer; John Proulx: piano, vocal, arranger (8); Anthony Wilson: guitar; Tom Warrington: bass; Joe LaBarbera: drums; Walter Rodriguez: percussion.

Record Label: Jazzed Media


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