By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
Give Marguerite Juenemann and Yevette Stewart credit as much for endurance as for the quality of their art. Longtime Denver jazz fans will remember these two gifted jazz singers as familiar figures on the Denver scene in the '70s and '80s who seemed to suddenly vanish.
Truth is, Stewart moved to Los Angeles in 1987, where she intermittently continued her career and raised three children. Last month, though, she popped up in Denver again on a working visit to the Manhattan Grill and El Chapultepec. Juenemann, the former Rare Silk vocalist who spent most of the '90s in New York and teaching voice, ensembles and improvisation at the University of Maine, now lives in rural Niwot and has worked recent gigs with the fine pianist Art Lande at Boulder's West End and Longmont's Tate's on Main. Starting in late May, she'll sing Friday lunch hours at -- we're not kidding here -- Treppeda's Italian Restaurant and Deli in Niwot, accompanied by the nimble Boulder guitarist Bill Kopper. What a treat. Juenemann's self-produced CD Night Wind (available at Twist & Shout and through the singer's Web site: jazzarts.org/marguerite.htm) is an all-out gem, enlivened by six gorgeously sung Fats Waller classics and set off by Lande's exemplary piano work. Juenemann's first influence was bebop legend Charlie Parker, but Eddie Jefferson and the magisterial improviser Betty Carter were the singers who most moved her, she says. You can hear echoes of them both in Juenemann's supple, full-range voice, but she's nothing if not her own woman, an authentic original.
Meanwhile, Stewart says she will return to Denver later this year and play Trios in Boulder, among other places. For now, we've got herself-produced CD, The Love Project, a highly polished selection of standards -- "That Old Black Magic," "In a Mellow Tone" and "Fire and Rain," to name a few -- recorded last year in L.A. and now available at Twist & Shout. Amazingly, it is the seasoned singer's first-ever release, and her stylish attack -- equal parts Nancy Wilson and Ernestine Anderson mixed with four or five parts Dinah Washington -- is more assured than ever.
At last we come to Ed Battle, a Denver institution for more than twenty years and a performer whose Live StandardsCD (again, self-produced and in the Twist & Shout bins) reveals a man who's lived a few lyrics and lived to tell about it. With his sonorous, rolling baritone, Battle knows his way around "Bye Bye Blackbird," but "Every Day I Have the Blues" proves even more evocative, with its hints of Jimmy Rushing and Joe Williams. Recorded and compiled from two widely spaced sessions, Live Standardshas four tracks featuring the late, great Denver drummer Bruno Carr, and it may break the hearts of Bruno's old friends to hear him again.
Want to man Battle Stations on a regular basis? Catch Big Ed Sunday afternoons at B.J.'s Port in Five Points, where he leads a burning B-3 trio anchored by the up-and-coming organist Pat Bianchi.
Come to think of it, who needs New York?