One of the many pleasures of the recent Cleveland Classic Jazz Party was the opportunity to hear the wonderful singer Petra van Nuis, someone who has been pleasing Chicago audiences for the past decade and more. She can sing is the simplest way to put it. Although she has a fine sense of humor — catch her introductions to songs in this set — it bubbles out of her rather than being a rehearsed routine. She has her own sound and phrasing — conversational, occasionally surprising, but it always honors the lyrics and comes out of her deep respect for words as well as melodies. She improvises but does not obliterate the composers’ intent, and I came away from this quietly glowing set feeling that I had heard the songs in emotionally satisfying ways. This delicious interlude is the result of Petra’s sensibility: her nice mix of delicate yet intense feeling and buoyant swing. I could delineate the pleasures of each chorus she sings, but I’d rather leave those sweet surprises to you as you watch and listen.
Petra’s instrumental colleagues have the same spirit: a sweet focused attentiveness that delights in small details without losing sight of the songs themselves. Nicki and Hal are long-time friends, people I admire for many reasons: their generous spirits, their melodic inventiveness. John Di Martino was new to me, and he’s a wonder: his beautiful touch, his wise harmonies, and his willingness to put himself in the service of the music: he is secure enough in his self to do just those things that make his colleagues shine so brightly. It’s only after you get accustomed to his selfless creativity that you realize just how wonderful his playing is.
If it seems as if I admire this group and the music they make, that impression would be correct. Here, “without further ado,” is a glorious Sunday-afternoon interlude. And, as Hal said to me afterwards, “You could see a lot of smiles and laughs, and none of them were forced!” I’m still grinning.
DAY IN, DAY OUT:
On MY OLD FLAME, hear how Petra delicately yet meaningfully offers the first two phrases — the mark of very great exposition of lyrics and melody:
MY HEART BELONGS TO DADDY has lent itself (in lesser hands) to caricature, but not here:
Let us honor Irving Berlin once again. How beautiful I GOT LOST IN HIS ARMS is — its apparently plain melody allied to simple words, the whole being so moving when Petra explores it:
Both FINE AND DANDY here! And blessings on the rhythm team for a fine 1944 Johnny Guarnieri groove to start:
I’M JUST A LUCKY SO-AND-SO:
After this set, we all felt just as fortunate. And grateful.
May your happiness increase!