Julie London made a name for herself as an actress and a singer during the '50s and '60s. Today, however, her legacy as a singer overshadows her acting career. During her lifetime, she released around thirty albums, and several of the recordings still continue to influence jazz performers. Chicago-based singer Petra van Nuis is among these, and Lonely GirlI Remember Julie is her tribute to this legendary performer.
Judging from the title alone, it might be tempting to assume that this is a track-by-track recreation of London's 1956 album Lonely Girl (Liberty). However, that is not the case. For this album, van Nuis focused more on London's overall influence, and the selections range from standards to popular songs which London recorded over the years.
One thing that set London apart from many other vocalists was her instrumentation. While many jazz vocalists recorded with lush orchestration or full bands backing them up, London's records often featured vocals only accompanied by a guitar. Julie Is Her Name (Liberty 1955) had Barney Kessel on guitar and Lonely Girl featured guitarist Al Viola. In keeping with that spirit, van Nuis recorded Lonely GirlI Remember Julie as a duet with her husband, Andy Brown, on guitar. Brown discusses this approach in the liner notes. Before London came along, the idea of simply having a singer backed by a guitarist "was unthinkable. Julie's landmark first album Julie Is Her Name changed that landscape forever."
Julie Is Her Name and Lonely Girl were both important albums for van Nuis. She describes how London was one of her earliest influences, "I studied every nuance of Julie's singing, and she became my teacher." Her albums became "my assignments." It is obvious that van Nuis did her homework because she manages to flawlessly capture the true spirit of London's recordings.
Along with van Nuis' vocals, Brown's guitar work deserves recognition. From listening to this recording alone, it is easy to see that he is one of the finest contemporary jazz guitarists. His playing is deeply rooted in jazz guitar tradition, and he has certainly listened to his share of Kessel and Viola. However, there are hints of Johnny Smith, Kenny Burrell, and Joe Pass in his style as well. His tasteful chord melody arrangements complement van Nuis' vocals in a way which brings out the emotional impact of each song. From melancholy songs such as "You've Changed" to upbeat numbers such as "Travelin' Light," there is a unique musical conversation going on here.
Something that is evident from Lonely GirlI Remember Julie is that van Nuis and Brown provide more than just excellent performances. They are able to convey a sense of true passion for the music, which greatly enhances the listening experience. It is easy to see that both are not only excellent musical performers but are also serious music listeners. This album successfully showcases their talents and presents a worthwhile tribute to Julie London's legacy.
The End Of the World;
Here's That Rainy Day;
The Meaning Of the Blues
Blues In The Night;
It Never Entered My Mind;
I Should Care;
Baby Won't you Please Come Home;
Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most;
Cry Me A River.
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