Petra van Nuis & Dennis Luxion

Because We’re Night People
(String Damper)

Petra van Nuis has a warm, intimate singing style, marked by playful phrasing that dances around a lyric to emphasize its emotional content. Her musical partner here, pianist Dennis Luxion, has a similar penchant for breaking a melody down into luminous fragments that keeps things moving at a sprightly pace.

The album’s title is taken from Tommy Wolf and Fran Landesman’s lyrics for “Night People,” a humorous text contrasting the lives of hipsters who hang out in jazz clubs with day-people who never “take the time to have fun.” Van Nuis sings the tune with a jaunty, almost tongue-in-cheek delivery that’s augmented by Luxion’s gently swinging asides and a sparkling solo. They take the same lighthearted approach to “Small Day Tomorrow,” another celebration of ironic hedonism, with Luxion’s bluesy keyboards supporting van Nuis’ wistful singing.

The performances are just as compelling when the duo moves to the melancholy side of the street. Luxion’s stately left-hand runs heighten the drama inherent in “The Night We Called It A Day,” while van Nuis drifts into the loveless darkness that accompanies an unexpected breakup. On “Black Coffee,” the vocalist imbues the longing and hopelessness of the lyric with a palpable sense of anguish, lightened a bit by the way she elongates vowels to imply she hasn’t given up all hope of a reconciliation. As he does throughout the album, Luxion provides a sensitive counterpoint to van Nuis with his bedrock rhythms and dynamic right-hand trills.