Fresh off her performance in Egypt with the Cairo Symphony, veteran Toronto jazz vocalist Julie Michels gave a taste of her upcoming Lyle Lovett Project album release to attendees at last week’s Association of Performing Arts Professionals conference with a pair of half-hour showcases at New York’s Hilton Hotel Midtown.
Backed by an excellent jazz piano trio, Michels was perfectly suited for placing Lovett’s sophisticated songs in a small group jazz context. For example, on “Her First Mistake,” Lovett’s song about dating games that she prefaced by revealing that “he wrote it for me—though he didn’t know it,” she demonstrated Lovett-like facility with his frequent conversational storytelling songwriting approach.
Julie Michels performing Lyle Lovett's “Her First Mistake“ at APAP
“He’s one of the finest storytellers we’ve got,” said Michels after her first set. “I think he’s one of the finest story tellers ever. I’ve idolized him for 35 years and have been wanting to record his music for years.”
“He’s a spectacular writer,” she added, “but it’s more than that: I’ve seen him with his big band half a dozen times, and when I see him, there’s something very rare and wonderful. He’s an old-time paladin, traveling around and telling stories.”
Lovett’s music “speaks to me on such a personal level,” continued Michels.
“He’s very male but writes and speaks to a very female sensibility—and has such overall integrity,” she explained. “I’m a songwriter, too, so I know that when you interpret someone else’s songs, you have to show respect for the writer. I’m also at the point in my life where I don’t sing anything that doesn’t speak to me and my experience, and I easily relate with Lyle’s songs.”
Michels, whose most recent recordings include Come Together (with saxophonist Don Braden as The Don Braden/Julie Michels Project) and The Most Wonderful Time...Maybe (with fellow Canadians Heather Bambrick and Diane Leah in female jazz vocal trio Broadsway), will commence a crowdsourcing campaign next month in support of the Lyle Lovett Project album production, to be produced by Mark Ruffin for summer late spring or early summer release.
Meanwhile, Michels has updated her composition “Valerie’s Tune,” from Come Together, specifically its line, “You know I didn’t go to Cairo today.”