Mette Juul: Celeste

Danish vocalist offers haunting arrangements of standards and originals, defined in large part by Mike Moreno's spare guitar playing

692

Danish vocalist Mette Juul works extensively in Scandinavia, so is only known in this country through a handful of albums. Here she mixes some American classics with modern compositions, a couple to which she has contributed the lyrics.

The material is delivered in a quiet fashion, the uncluttered accompaniment adding to the feeling of calm and intimacy, but avoiding the sentimentality of the torch song. Juul interprets the songs sensitively, often following the melodic line and using her phrasing effectively. She likes to embellish by extending and flattening notes, sometimes stressing them unexpectedly, although this occasionally can seem to miss the pitch.

Juul supplies the lyrics on Thomas Fonnesbæk’s Where You’ve Never Been and Northern Woods, the latter with bassist Lars Danielsson on celeste, which he also plays on With A Song In My Heart, Love Is A Many Splendored Thing but ironically not on the title track. His versatility is further shown on cello (Beautiful Love and Distance), and melodica, giving an accordion sound to the Eden Ahbez composition, Nature Boy. His bass is a strong presence elsewhere, giving the music depth and texture, and he features in a duet with Juul on Celeste, which, like Distance, has lyrics by Norma Winstone.

Experienced New York-based guitarist Mike Moreno plays on most of the tracks, having collaborated with Juul on previous albums. Given his past interpretations of film music (see the JJ review of his Standards From Film), it’s hardly surprising that My Foolish Heart (a 1949 film starring Susan Hayward), With A Song In My Heart (1952, Hayward as Jane Froman) and Love Is A Many Splendored Thing (1955; William Holden & Jennifer Jones) appear.

This is an attractive collection of tracks with much to recommend it and worthy of repeated listening. It will be of interest to those who want to hear vocals interpreted in a subtle and restrained way, without the necessity of emotive overstatement.


Discography
Beautiful Love; My Foolish Heart; With A Song In My Heart; Nature Boy; I’m Moving On; Distance; Northern Woods; Love Is A Many Splendored Thing; Celeste; Where You’ve Never Been (43.32)
Juul (v, g); Mike Moreno (g); Lars Danielsson (b, clo, cel, melodica, cymbals). New York and Kållered, Sweden. Unknown date, released November 2023.
Prophone PCD325