Debut album from jazz duo Brulée has an engaging creative spirit
(Published: March 01, 2011)
(Santa Rosa, CA) Written by Robert Sutton. Named after a delicious French dessert, perhaps it's no surprise that the debut album from Brulée would touch the palate so smoothly. However, the sweet tones of the record do not result in an empty confection; there is emotional depth to be plumbed here as well as an engaging creative spirit.
Featuring vocalist Julie Weiner and keyboardist/vocalist Doug Onstad, Brulée has the carefree coolness of a lounge act but also the playful quirkiness of an indie-pop group.
On New Beginnings, Brulée blends their original compositions with covers that list their jazz heroes (Cole Porter, George Gershwin) while peeling away their classic-rock roots (Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones).
However, their interpretations are never quite what you expect. For example, Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin" collides with the Stones' "Under My Thumb" in an ingenious mash-up with Weiner and Onstad tossing one another lines from each song as if they were missing pieces from a long-lost tune. It's bold and brilliant move, one that would elicit cries of sacrilege from both camps if Brulée didn't execute it with such keen precision and infectious enthusiasm. Weiner and Onstad toy with the idea on two other tracks, again with effortless verve. Onstad plays the lonely bachelor in "I Ain't Got Nobody" with lusty abandon while Weiner is the epitome of youthful innocence, even while singing suggestive lyrics like "Come on-a my house, I'm gonna give you candy." Tom Shader's reptilian bass lines and David Scott's sultry tenor sax heightens its undercurrent of sensuality.
The unbridled joy in which Weiner and Onstad harmonize is one of the album's biggest strengths. On "Tout Doucement/Ain't Misbehavin'," their voices almost blend into one another, becoming a separate entity.
The self-deprecating and ironic wit of "Perfectly Flawed" summarizes the good-natured spirits behind the band. This is a group that places an emphasis on fun, that jazz music isn't the staid, snobby genre that has characterized its reputation to younger audiences.
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