Golden Daffodil is the first vocal release for bassist/composer Matt Ulery’s Woolgathering Records. We covered Ulery’s most recent release as a leader, Delicate Charms, (a chamber jazz outing which in no way resembles this one) last October on these pages. This is Chicago-based vocalist Leslie Beukelman’s second full-length jazz release mixed among singles and EPs in other genres. The album showcases Beukelman’s introspective original compositions as well as her distinctive take on carefully curated standards. She sings alongside a tightly-knit rhythm section made up of pianist/keyboardist Rob Clearfield, bassist Patrick Mulcahy, and drummer Jon Deitemyer.
She begins with her wholly penned “Dear Alice,” a whimsical love song with underlying darkness. It’s a plea for help in a disintegrating relationship, setting the stage for the rise and fall of relationships in parallel to the changing seasons. As Beukelman says in her liner notes: “…the daffodil is the golden hued beacon of light we see, the hope that winter just might be coming to a close and we can feel, hear, and smell the arrival of spring.”
In addition to showcasing Beukelman’s clear, floating, alto pipes, Golden Daffodil displays the intimate interplay and long-standing relationship between these four musicians. The players of Golden Daffodil have performed and recorded together over the years in various contexts including Rob Clearfield’s Information Superhighway and Jon Deitemyer’s Tall Tales, among others. Clearfield played on the aforementioned Ulery album too.
Beukelman and Clearfield began collaborating in the early 2000’s. This time-honored connection is most evident on their endearing, cuddly rendition of Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You”, which appears toward the end. But the whole quartet gets involved at various points. Standout track “Here’s That Rainy Day” features Beukelman and bassist Patrick Mulcahy in familiar conversation while “Secret Love” highlights an enthralling dialogue between the vocalist and drummer Jon Deitemyer. Other high points include the hard-hitting “I’m Gonna Laugh You Out of My Life,” which features some of Clearfield’s best delicate, skittering piano lines, and her original, the comforting “Days of Gray,” with her soothing “oohs,” acts as a transition from winter to spring.
Originally from Sandwich, IL, Beukelman has been a mainstay on the Chicago music scene for over fifteen years. Since 2008, she has appeared on a wide array of recordings. Some, like her debut recording Here I Am and her work with Jon Deitemyer’s Tall Tales (2016) are firmly planted in jazz while others, like her 2013 EP Brite Lite, and recent self-titled debut with female trio The Oh Yeahs lean toward singer-songwriter and folk sensibilities. Beukelman has a degree in Jazz Voice/Jazz Studies from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. She thrives on her versatility and has forged a central role in Chicago’s vibrant music scene and beyond. Leslie is a first call singer for a variety of ensembles and studio session around the world. She has shared the stage with musicians such as Kenny Loggins, Wynonna Judd, and Karrin Allyson. Leslie tours regularly with Los Angeles based singer-songwriter, Grammy and Emmy nominee, Peter Himmelman, and his project, the “Big Muse,” a seminar harnessing the power of music to help leaders build high functioning teams.
This is an enjoyable listen due to Beukelman’s smooth, clearly annunciated delivery and the tight interplay of the trio, which prove to be the perfect support.
- Jim Hynes