This is a clangorous world where people have trouble getting their message across, so something gentle is more than welcome. That quality of intelligent gentleness lifts the new CD, LESSONS LYRICAL, by singer Petra van Nuis and guitarist Andy Brown, above the ordinary. By “gentle,” though, I don’t mean soporific — this is not aural Valium — but it comes in the ear like honey.
Don’t let LESSONS make you take a step back, however. There’s not a hint of the classroom or the ashram here, just songs selected because their melodies and lyrics contain the gentlest of life-lessons to be absorbed, remembered, enjoyed. The title refers to the lessons both Petra and Andy acknowledge with gratitude from their heroes and mentors, the musicians and elders who gave of their life experiences. And you can hear that loving wisdom throughout this CD.
Before you read another word, visit Petra’s site to hear song samples from this new CD. And you should also notice that you can purchase copies of it right below the listing of songs. (The holidays — whatever they are — are coming.)
Petra and Andy are a wonderful musical team (they’re also married, and they don’t bicker, either in words or notes): they’ve worked together so well and so kindly that their unity is delightful. Petra’s singing is perfectly aimed at the listener: her sweet voice, clear diction, and individualistic phrasing set her apart from many other singers. She values the lyric message without pounding it into our ears, but it’s clear the words mean everything to her. And she improvises in her quietly swinging way: compare her first and second choruses on WHO CARES? for a vivid but soft-spoken example. She can be tender, rueful, wistful, but she can also romp: her summons to DOCTOR JAZZ is a pager that no medical professional could ignore. For his part, Andy is a portable orchestra, a wonderful soloist — hear his opening soliloquy on YOU’RE BLASÉ and his solo choruses on this disc, and admire his splendid accompaniment. The overall effect is spare but rich, making this a disc to be savored rather than gobbled down in a sitting.
While you are waiting for your copies of LESSONS LYRICAL to arrive, I can offer you an hour’s present: Petra and Andy in concert at the Jazz Showcase in October — nearly an hour of music full of quiet ardor:
In person, Andy and Petra are anything but professorial or somber. They don’t lecture or pontificate. But it’s clear they have the most dear and lasting lessons for anyone who can hear and feel.
May your happiness increase!