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JAZZ REVIEW | Petra van Nuis & Dennis Luxion "From Me To You" by Patrick Romanowski



Petra van Nuis & Dennis Luxion 

From Me To You

Petra van Nuis : Vocals 

Dennis Luxion : piano 

Review : Patrick Romanowski 


A duet in a quaint club on a Saturday night on the North Side of Chicago is a cozy affair.


Petra van Nuis and Dennis Luxion divine that reverential and intimate feeling with high spirited elegance on their new album, “From Me To You.”

The release marks the follow-up to their 2018 debut “Because We’re Night People.” Expanding on their hip, nocturnal vibe, the duo delves into a fresh and vibrant collection of well crafted tunes.


The music prompts heartfelt introspection, stirring feelings of hope and sentiments of loss, while maintaining an atmosphere of opulence. It's the kind of sound that compels a contemplative journey into the night, searching for an answer, wherever the path may take you.


The repertoire recorded on the album is an extension of their regular “Afterglow” set, where they perform every Saturday night at Le Piano—an intimate, candle lit room, tucked in along the tracks on a cobblestone strip in Rogers Park.

"While it's possible to make music with Dennis just about anywhere, landing a comfortable home gig at Le Piano has granted our duo the opportunity to evolve and blossom.” Says van Nuis.


Both inveterate players on the Chicago jazz scene, van Nuis and Luxion have been gigging together for over 20 years. Performing in venues all over the city, from concert halls to cocktail clubs, the selections on "From Me To You," reflect that versatility in a stripped down and spare mode.

 

An interesting mix of Broadway show tunes, cinematic themes, ballads, and pop numbers, the selection is dynamic and eclectic. 


The vocal stylings of van Nuis are dotted with her signature playfulness and catchy, bemused prowess. On solos, Luxion voyages into shimmering and powerful Gershwin-esque showers of sound. Together they share a glowing interplay and intuition that flows spectacularly. 


“It has been a pleasure to work with Petra. She has a keen understanding of her carefully selected material, which she delivers in a convincing and personal way.” says Luxion.


The album is dedicated to the late Chicago musicians, pianist/singers Bob Dogan and Marc Pompe. Both were legendary players and composers who were significant influences and close friends of van Nuis and Luxion.


“The songs herein have stylistically diverse origins but in each one we’ve looked for ourselves.” Says Luxion.


The first cut, “I Got Lost In His Arms,” is a superb take on the Irving Berlin classic from “Annie Get Your Gun.” They lower the sweeping, high-wire torch of Ethel Merman’s 1946 production version and bring the arrangement to a sharp, flickering flame.


“Nothing,” is a beautiful composition by the late singer and composer Marc Pompe. The song is a lyrical meditation on the nature of existence. A crestfallen pulse carries the zen-like observations to contemplative heights, that both execute with delicacy and bravado. 


They dip into The Carpenters classic, “Rainy Days And Mondays,”  handling the ‘70s pop ballad with spare chords, as they recast the blue-hearted  gaze of the original and tease the lines with a fresh sweep. 


A wonderful homage to the late pianist/singer Bob Dogan is captured in their rendition of his song “From Me To You,” which tenderly brings the dedication of the album into focus. 


On “Ev’rything I Got,” van Nuis takes on the Rodgers and Hart standard ala Ella Fitzgerald and Blossom Dearie with a snap. Up, swinging, she jostles the number with smart punctuation. The saucy lines fly and duck. She slips through the swivel fast phrases with poise and a wink. 


A cover of Gato Barbieri's “Last Tango In Paris,” is a fantastically haunting and lurid number. Van Nuis weaves the bleary eyed lyric as Luxion paints the wayward tone of the melody with appropriately stark ornamentation. The staggering and forlorn lurch of the rhythm  carries them out of the set with radiant style. 


Delectable and rich, van Nuis' vocals are tempered with a touch of solemnity that lend gravity to each lyrical charm. Luxion works with magnificent undercurrents of improvisation and his melodic explorations  inspire and illuminate in equal measure.


In performance they are just as captivating. A flight of unity swings and dashes the clock on the wall. Neither romance nor play is lost in the set as the distinct tone of each song carefully driven to the surface with tenderness and a flash of remembrance. 


13 tracks in all, recorded at PianoForte in Chicago, the album is out now on String Damper Records. CDs available as well as more information at petrasings.com


Catch them live at Le Piano, Saturday nights,11pm-1am. 



Patrick Romanowski is a writer living in Chicago. He is a regular contributor to the Evanston Roundtable. He works 9-5 at a hip record shop in Wicker Park and on Sundays he tends bar at a joint in Uptown. In his spare time he enjoys coffee, riding the CTA, and roaming around the city.

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