Julie Kelly records all too infrequently. When a new album comes out, it is well worth looking forward to. She has not disappointed over the course of five records that have taken in jazz standards and new tunes with a sure-fire disposition that profiles a singer with heart.
Over the course of her long career Kelly has sung in a band with John Handy and has recorded with Ray Brown, Nat Adderley and Benny Green. Pretty good credentials, but it is her own work that gives her a presence.
Kelly interprets song in her own distinctive fashion. She gives a song a dimension that sets it apart and takes it into a new realm. Each song here is beautifully textured (save for the dry air that fills “Folks Who Live On The Hill”, which is just that tiny aberration) as she brings in her own interpretations riding on the exceptional arrangements of Bill Cunliffe and his lyrically resonant piano playing. Having said that, the rest of the band is expansive as well and adds to the atmosphere with clean ensemble lines and some fine solo spots.
Kelly lends a world-weary air to “Love For Sale”, an interpretation that testifies to the worn-out semblance of the offer. Brazilian music is at the heart of her disposition and she brings in a svelte snap to “Flor de Lis (Upside Down)” with an exultant flute solo. Ivan Lins is called upon for “Kisses” and Kelly weaves a warm, emotional performance.
There is an abundance of joy in the music. To do without it would be cutting far too straight a groove. She bounces with abandon in the exultation of “Hooray For Love” and if one looks for that trait of the jazz singer, scatting, Kelly gets that into the uppity “Sonny’s Bounce (Blues Steps)”. Oh yes, she can swing too and with all else she does, hammers square on the head that she is one darned fine jazz singer!
Personnel: Julie Kelly-vocals; Bill Cunliffe-arranger, piano; Tom Warrington-bass; Joe La Barbera-drums; Larry Koonse-guitar; Brad Dutz-percussion; Jeff Clayton-tenor sax; Holly Hoffman-flute