"I know a star when I see one. He's going to be a star!" Joe Franklin - WOR Radio, US.
"wonderfully talented... such warmth, passion, and sincerity..." Bob Collins, Jazz Cafe, WRHU 88.7FM, NY, USA.
"This young man and this 'old music' are one beautiful pair!" Jean-Pierre Savouyaud, Virus de Jazz, France.
"I can't remember the last time I encountered such a thoroughly original artist as Julian Yeo..." Jeff Rossen - Cabaret Scenes Magazine, US
"It's so refreshing to be wrapped in the "so right" combination of early 20th century vocal styles with clean, melodic early 21st century instrumental arrangements." Eddie O'Strange, Town & Country Radio Show, Access Radio 783AM, New Zealand
"...really like his style and vocal skills, a very new experience I must say...", Joost for Jazz & Blues Tour with ASFM 105.4, Netherlands
It has been an uncommon musical path for vocalist Julian Yeo. He has had some unusual passages - so here is the guided tour for that trip.
His path to singing in the nightclubs of New York City began many miles away. An Australian of Asian descent, Julian was a shy kid decades away from his own personal musical heroes like dapper Fred Astaire. “When I hear Fred Astaire singing Irving Berlin songs like ‘I’m Putting All My Eggs in one Basket’ or ‘Isn’t this a lovely day (to be caught in the rain)?’; no matter what mood I’m in, these songs always bring a smile to my face,” he says.
It’s not surprising that a retro sound comes so naturally to him. Singers from the 1920s and 30s are what he most likes listening to: Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Rudy Vallee, Arthur Tracy (“The Street Singer”), early Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, vocalists from the “sweet bands”. But Julian Yeo is not satisfied to just do a copycat re-creation. “I am a throwback, I guess,” Julian explains. “It’s a very intentional homage, but to do so slavishly is rather pointless. People can still listen to those old records any time. I want to bring the essence of that innocent, timeless sound with a slightly hipper, knowing quality of today and sometimes even with a darker twist.” Fortunately, he’s found an arranger, Jesse Gelber, who knows how to bring a contemporary sensibility to the old songs that works. Today meets yesterday, melding instead of colliding. It really is an unusual passage.
Julian Yeo is about reconnections rather than antiques. In the song “Too Close for Comfort,” Julian entertains both the perils and pleasures of proximity, even cutely inserting his own spoken addition, “There could be serious consequences.” Romance can be a chance for losing control and/or gaining a forever partner, a little dance with danger, and why not enjoy it all?
A couple of the songs have had unusual passages of their own. “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan” by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, for example, was first written as a camp song when Schwartz was a counselor at a boys’ camp, with another camp staffer - Lorenz Hart. They called it “I Love to Lie Awake at Night” about the wonders of camp life as opposed to the ups and downs of possible romantic entanglements. Julian finds the easy-going side of the song, as silky smooth as the blue pajamas mentioned in its second lyric.
Julian’s unusual passage can be a detour to “Hernando’s Hideaway” for pure escapism. Or, he can travel and stay for a while in more emotional waters. His version of the 1960s’ movie title song “Charade” lets him actually drop the charade and reveal his heart and genuine emotional side with vulnerability and bittersweet qualities in full bloom. As he sings about being “lovers until love left the masquerade,” there’s a real sense of grown-up loss. You sense that maybe he’s been through a couple of those unusual passages himself.
A real sense of joy and playfulness is clear in his singing. Julian is a guy who’d be very comfortable with a big fedora, a megaphone, and totally at ease in a time warp! The smile comes through and is contagious. Quaint, perhaps, but also disarming and worth giving into. Unusual to some ears at first, it may seem natural and addictive soon enough - as much as one song choice, “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me”, happily surrenders to getting used to the way a romantic partner’s “every kiss, every hug seems to act just like a drug.”
Who knows where his next passages will bring him? Meanwhile, enjoy the ride. He sure is doing so.
CD and Cabaret reviewer, New York City
Sound advice on TalkinBroadway.com, Cabaret Scenes Magazine