From Asia Comes Standards (Music Thoughts: Another Season, Julian Yeo)

FrontBlossom Dearie was one described as the librarian who sang jazz. I guess you could also describe Julian Yeo as the college professor who sings jazz. And I thought about this even before I read that Yeo taught Business school at Columbia. But indeed, he does. Yep sings with a certain rigidity and sterility that almost mathematical. At first I mistaked it for unfeeling, but as I listeed more I warmed up to his method. Yeo has a great baritone-ish voice and a style that’s plain. No melisma, no scattign here, not even extended notes. And coupled with guitar work by Tony Sorrento, the duet tracks are quite appealing in a late-night vibe that reminds me of a male Julie London. In some tracks, bassist Haeng Sol joins in, and the effect is sterile simplicity. There aren’t really a lot of Asian male jazz singers, and in that case Yeo is a welcome addition, and I even think his slight accent adds to the authenticity of his delivery. And his repertoire is stellar, from ‘Misty’ to ‘All the Things You Are’ to ‘Makin Whoopee.’ (I thought it was a nice touch in that track that in the beginning Yeo couldn’t sing the words ‘whoopee’)  This disc is a different and welcome take in singing The Great American Songbook.

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