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Current concise reviews of the albums by adult alternative, contemporary, and crossover artists. Images of album artwork and links to both internet-based resources are always included. Click on the title to view the article.

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Never Felt The Sun CD Cover
Image © Covenant Records 2002

Julie Lavender Image © Covenant Records 2005

Good Woman CD Cover Image © Covenant Records 1996


(30 October 2005) Chicago born singer/songwriter Julie Lavender has released two albums, Good Woman (Covenant Records (USA), 081891-95, 1996) and her sophomoric effort, Never Felt The Sun ( Covenant Records (USA) 122201-02, 2002) which showcase her contemporary jazz inspired music. Good Woman captures a wide range of emotions throughout her poignant works. Julie is a classically trained guitarist and pianist, and is accompanied on this recording by producer/arranger Kamau Kenyatta, nationally recognized keyboardist Greg Phillinganes and guitarist Hank Easton. On Never Felt The Sun, Julie has again combined her talents along with producer, arranger and keyboardist-saxophonist Kamau Kenyatta, renowned virtuoso flutist Hubert Laws, famed Broadway composer Hugh Martin and acoustic guitarist Peter Sprague on this delightful album.

Her debut album, Good Woman, showcases her lovely soprano voice on ten of her own compositions. She also adds some keyboards and guitar as well as producing and arranging two songs. Never Felt The Sun exhibits a conglomeration of sounds including Brazilian and classical music, Latin rhythms as well as contemporary and mainstream jazz sounds blending with pop music. Julie's beautiful and soaring soprano vocals strike an inspiring note throughout this set of compositions. Varied moods and emotions are captured in her music reflecting her innermost thoughts and feelings. Her gentle renditions are soothing to the soul.

Julie was born in Chicago, but was raised in California. She comes from a musical background with her mother being a professional opera singer and her father a trumpet player in a big band. At the age of five, Julie began studying piano and started playing classical guitar at age eleven. When she was fourteen, she won the Central California Bach Festival piano performance competition. Her interest in classical guitar took precedence and during high school she performed in folk groups, traveled to Holland where she performed on national television, and she traveled throughout the Middle East.

In trying to perfect her craft, she moved to Toronto, enrolling at the Canadian Royal Conservatory of Music in order to study under Eli Kassner, a prominant professor of classic guitar. She later transferred to the University of Toronto and got her Bachelors of Music degree in music performance. She earned many scholarships during her college years enabling her to study under some of the great guitarists such as John Mills, Alice Artzt, George Sakallerio, Vladimir Mikulka and Sergio Arbreo.

She opted for a career in jazz and pop rather than classical guitar after graduating. After extensive travels in Europe, Julie returned to the US and put together a band in California, performing in clubs for a couple of years. She released her first album, Good Woman in 1996. Julie feels that Never Felt The Sun is an autobiographical "life painting" that outlines her personal journey of "awakening to life and love."

Julie said, "In writing the lyrics to the songs, there were moments of great risk for me as I let people see where I have truly been. At times I felt achingly vulnerable. But the journey I am on involves not only the personal experience, but the sharing of it with others." There is a freshness of tone to her blend of jazz, classical and pop melodies. She sings with a lovely clarity and simple pureness. Her soothing tones harmonize with her wonderful storytelling ability.

Some standout tracks on Never Felt The Sun include the charming and original "Tin Man" and her more acoustic and classical "Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5." The latter is a cover by Hector Villa-Lobos. The addition of cellos, acoustic bass and percussion with Julie's gorgeous vocals transforms this classical piece into a jazz work beautifully. "Here Come the Dreamers" is the final track and was written by Hugh Martin as a special arrangement for this album. Julie says this tune "is such an optimistic song. It ends the CD by opening a portal into what can come next for the awakened soul. It evokes a dreamy vision for an abundant life teeming with possibilities."

All of these melodies are soothing and sumptuous, embracing the soul. She makes the most of her expertise to woo the listener in mainstream jazz to Broadway, smooth jazz, and revealing folk singing. The music envelops you and creates a peaceful, passionate atmosphere. These are albums that cause you to just want to sit back, kick up your feet and relax.--Audrey Elliot in New York

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