Beneath The Surface
With a singing career that covers over 15 years Juliet Roberts is somewhat of a veteran of the British soul music scene. With her first singles released on the Red Bus and Bluebird label she later on became a member of the Funk Masters and in 1985 of Working Week. Later on she recorded some house/garage records with Dancin' Danny D for his Slam Jam label (e.g. Caught In The Middle or Free Love) and in 1994 Juliet released her solo album Natural Thing on Cooltempo (which was ok, though most of the songs worked better as 12" versions). Juliet also appeared as guest singer on albums by Courtney Pine, Denys Baptiste and the Jazz Jamaica All Stars. Lately there were some more mediocre house singles like the Donna Summer cover Bad Girls or Never Had A Love Like This Before (with Steven Dante) and I was beginning to wonder what has gone wrong with Juliet.
But with Beneath The Surface I really don't have to worry since she's back for good. This time we find Juliet back in a jazz music environment with her core band consisting of Andrew McCormack (piano), Arnie Somogyi (double bass) and Rod Youngs (drums). To add more spice to her music Juliet has invited a cast of thousands like Courtney Pine, Soweto Kinch, Denys Baptiste, Jessica Lauren, Mary Pierce or Jason Yarde to support her.
And the result is a very good album with Juliet having (co-)written most of the songs here. 'I love writing lyrics,' says Juliet. 'I don't think it's essentially important whether a singer does write or not though. I don't think Ella ever did and she was a great singer. Writing lyrics is just something that Iíve always had a knack for. When I was younger my mother used to call me a liar because I could just make up a story on the spot. Singing my own songs I can be as quirky as I want to be. I've always wanted to write a book because I love conjuring up images.'
This album is quite diverse covering soul, jazz, latin and reggae influences. But then Juliet has always been a singer doing different styles. 'I've always maintained the dance and the jazz stuff in a very happy balance,'says Juliet. 'The dance fans are probably not the same people who go to the Barbican to see jazz so for all I know I might have two different audiences. That's fine by me; Chaka Khan does the same. I'm not doing anything new in that respect. I like playing different styles of music because... I can! If my music can transcend several of the boxes out there then thatís all well and good.'
It's really hard to pick a favourite song here, since all are impressive and good. Though I like her cover of Dennis Brown's How Can I Leave, the late night/bar jazz feeling of Tenderly, Touchin' Heaven and Lullaby For Miles (the only instrumental on this album). There's even a fine cover version of Billie Holiday's Good Morning Heartache (whose inclusion isn't such a surprise since Juliet performed a Billy Holiday Tribute at London's Jazz Cafe in 2001).
Beneath The Surface is a very pleasant return for Juliet Roberts with some more depth than her previous album and one of the finest vocal jazz albums in 2002.
(for more information visit julietroberts.com and dunejazz.com)