by Julie Silvera :: Paul Ely Smith :: Reviewed by Sunny Wilkinson
Style, phrasing, and rhythmic acuity are hallmarks of a great jazz singer. Julie Silvera displays all of these and more on her debut CD, Sojourner. A graduate of Washington State University with an M.A. in music, Julie cut her "jazz teeth" singing in Pullman with the Charlie Argersinger trio at Rico's Smokehouse.
How refreshing to hear a singer dig into the literature of the American Songbook and pick out rarely recorded jewels! Sojourner boasts three such gems: "Sweet Georgie Fame," "Lost and Lookin'," and "All Alone."
On Sojourner, Julie covers the gamut of emotional expression, flashing the extremes of her range and dynamics throughout. Listen to the honey—no, the molasses—of her tone on the opening cut, "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To." Just when you cozy into her velvet sound, she growls out a line that is motivated purely by swing. Phrasing around the rhythm and landing in the pocket, she swings, and swings hard.
The stand-out tunes on this CD are the two duo pieces between Charlie Argersinger and Julie, "Alone in the World" and "Sweet Georgie Fame." Transparent and intimate, in "Alone in the World," Julie favors the purity of her head voice and wispy phrases that invoke the longing in the lyrics. Charlie is at his best in duo exchange with Julie, gliding in compliment to her every turn of the phrase. In "Sweet Georgie Fame," the elegance and clear musical chemistry between Charlie and Julie are captivating.
Sojourner is a jazz CD. Although Julie has grit in her voice, with hints of gospel and R&B, she uses these elements sparingly. She flirts with other styles, spicing up the tunes while remaining true to the jazz idiom.
There are marvelous players on Sojourner: Charlie Argersinger (piano), Richard Dozier (bass), and Dave Jarvis (drums). They enhance Julie's singing, whether they're locking in a swing tune or laying out the warm open timbres of a ballad.
Julie has intonation problems throughout the CD. But her connection to the lyrics, warm sound, and ability to swing outshine that difficulty.
Other cuts on Sojourner are "Good Morning Heartache," "I'm Traveling Light," "Estate," "When the Sun Comes Out," "I'm Hip," and "A Sleepin' Bee."
—Sunny Wilkinson, recording artist and jazz faculty at Michigan State University and Western Michigan University