Cry Me a River: The Songs of Julie London at The Jazz Bar (Venue 57) featuring London-based vocalist Kerry Jo Hodgkin paying musical tribute to the vocal legend that is Julie London is back in Edinburgh for a few shows. With top jazz musicians Malcolm MacFarlane (guitar) and Kenny Ellis (double bass), Kerry is recreating a musical line-up that Julie London herself used many times, although in her own words, some songs have been re-arranged and distilled down from full orchestral arrangements.
How to pick a few songs for a set from the career of Julie London must be an enormous task as, over a 32 album spanning career, so many songs were recorded in so many styles. Julie London was one of the first musical cross-over artists, and through some of the songs chosen here, it is obvious that this has at times meant that full credit where due as one of the great jazz and blues singers of her day has never really been given to her.
Kerry by her own admission sings these songs the way she does simply because that is her vocal range, and that suits me perfectly as it is very similar to the original sounds not only in range, but in phrasing, timing and delivery. Julie London songs (many written with eventual husband Bobby Troup) are all about stories and emotions, and songs like “How Long Has This Been Going On”, “Black Coffee” and “The Meaning of The Blues” were presented to an audience as they should be...from the heart emotion and respect for the lyrics of the song.
Julie London, of course, will forever be remembered for one classic song “Cry Me A River”, and it was perhaps a bit of a curse that this song came right at the start of her recording career as she was forever expected to not only sing it, but also “find another one like it”. Cry Me A River is probably the one song that I have heard singers destroy more than any other as they try to outdo one another in proving the volume and vocal gymnastics of their voices to everyone, and the song is just not about that...it should be delivered as Kerry does (and Julie London herself did), softly and full of emotion and respect for the words.
Cry Me A River was simply a chance to come into the Jazz Bar, sit down for an hour and spend it in the company of a gifted singer and two very good jazz musicians.
Review by Tom King