Much admired in Chicago, Van Nuis is not as well known internationally as should be the case although she has a devoted following in Japan. An exceptionally gifted singer, she has a light yet subtly textured sound and is always delightfully melodic.
Her chosen repertoire here includes familiar yet far from overdone material, including songs by respected nightclub artists such as Tommy Wolf, Bob Dorough, Fran Landesman, Matt Dennis and Tom Adair. There are also standards, including “Black Coffee” and “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep”. To all of these songs she brings warmth and affectionate understanding.
The material is themed in that all the songs speak of the night and it is in Chicago’s nightspots that this duo has most often worked over the years and their rapport is constantly evident. A previous album by Van Nuis on this label, Lessons Lyrical, was also a duo; on that occasion a studio set with her husband guitarist Andy Brown.
For this live set, Van Nuis and Luxion are at PianoForte before an appreciative (and very well-behaved) audience. In settings such as this, Van Nuis is clearly at ease even though the duo is a format offering no hiding place for a singer. Here, the simplicity of the format is filled with many memorable moments, notably in Van Nuis’s interpretation of the lyrics; these are clearly very important to her and she delivers them with admirable sincerity.
Luxion worked for some years in Europe, including a spell with Chet Baker, and his skill as an accompanist, a difficult aspect of a pianist’s role, is evident throughout this set and his solos are inventive and fluent.
Street of Dreams; Night People; The Piano Player (A Thousand and One Saloons); Moonlight Saving Time; You and the Night and the Music; While My Lover Sleeps; Small Day Tomorrow; Dreamsville; No Moon at All; The Night We Called It a Day; Shadows of Paris; Black Coffee; Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep (59.48)
Van Nuis (v); Luxion (p). Chicago, 14 March 2018.
String Damper 2136