Julia Biel - Not Alone

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Rokit|RKT 010|****
Julia Biel (v), Jonny Phillips (g), Idris Rahman (fl, cl, bcl), Dan Hewson, Dorian Ford (kys), Ben Davis (clo), Tom Herbert (b), Sebastian Rochford (d) and Adriano Adewale Itauna (perc). Rec. 2004

Julia Biel - Not Alone
Vocalist Julia Biel’s breezy soul-folk is a tonic for those weary of endless standards and Songbook recycling. Not quite a jazz singer (but then nor is Norah Jones), Biel remains one of the most underrated vocalists we have, combining a dusky yet fragile way with words (try Norah meets Björk meets Tom Yorke) with heartfelt song-writing.

In the same way that Cassandra Wilson weaves magic by stripping music down to its rootsiest essentials, Biel’s repertoire is folksy and down-tempo and not without a pop twist. On the gorgeous Not Alone she also works with a hugely sympathetic band blessed with more than a few F-IRE starters. Co-creating with guitarist Jonny Phillips, Biel concocts memorable melodies whether it is the Amélie-sweetness of ‘Souvenir’, the finger-popping Afro-ballad ‘By the light of you’ or the lovely cello lines on ‘Interlude.’

Biel won the Perrier Jazz Award several years ago, but since then has blossomed into a truly distinctive and charming singer/songwriter.

Andy Robson