Music Review: Julie Benko and Jason Yeager – Hand in Hand

Julie Benko and Jason Yeager’s duet album Hand in Hand takes the listener a joyful and jazz-inspired journey 

“A feeling deep in your soul”

Julie Benko has found herself thrust into the spotlight rather. As standby for the lead role in the new Broadway production of Funny Girl, circumstances have led her to seemingly being on as Fanny Brice as much as she was off and as the show transitions to new leads, she’s now playing the role full time until 4th September and then on Thursdays thereafter – a neat turn of events for someone who literally kept the show going. So you don’t blame her for striking while the iron is hot and releasing an album.  

But rather than rush-release a collection of stale musical theatre standards, Hand in Hand is a real labour of love, literally so as it is a duet album with jazz pianist and composer Jason Yeager who also happens to be her husband. And so whilst tracks like ‘All I’ve Ever Known’ from Hadestown and ‘Another Life’ from The Bridges of Madison County represent the new school and Guys and Dolls‘ ‘If I Were A Bell’ the old, they are completely reinterpreted with a joyful and jazz-inspired glee that is as relaxed as it is refreshing.

There’s a lightness and delicacy to Benko’s voice that really suits this treatment, a suppleness and strength too that allows her to match and occasionally meld with Yeager’s piano lines in beautiful style. Their take on Funny Girl’s ‘People’ exemplifies this perfectly, a left-turn from the expected that finds its own deep meaning in tenderness. Their repertoire also extends to includes jazz standards and Janis Joplin, with a couple of original songs thrown in for good measure. The result is a beguiling record, perfect to while away these late summer evenings.

Main photo: Sub:Urban Photography

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