Jonny Blu that is…

I came by JB about a year ago while listening to Martiniinthemorning … Brad “Martini” Chambers is one of my favorite ways to sniff out new young talent plying the standards. Nearly every time I drop in on MITM for an hour or two I hear something or someone new to me.

On this occasion Jonny caught my ear with his jazzy cool version of “Babaloo (Babalu)” off his most recent album, Taboo!. I’m going to age myself right now by telling you that I grew up watching I Love Lucy with Ricky Ricardo and secretly loved Ricky singing “Babloo” … yeah I know, wow.

As I dug into Jonny Blu, I discovered something really wild and interesting to me — JB’s success really broke out as a vocal Pop star in China. In fact he may still be a bigger artist in China than in the US even today. But I predict that’s likely to change soon! 

Too many hours at 30K feet…

As a high-tech business development guy for many (too many) years, I’ve spent a bunch of time in a steel tube at 30K feet making my way to destinations like Taipei, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Beijing and the like. An interesting affectation of the Chinese entertainment community is their fascination with western style music.

I used to see guys like JB in the bigger hotel lounges and music clubs all the time … but Jonny made it big over there as a Mandarin speaker (singer), not just another American expat belting out the American Songbook. I found that wild and even wilder that he was able to leverage his success as Chinese Pop star and recast himself here in the US as a Fresh Face in the standards arena.

Though Jonny is yet to lock up a major record deal, he has published a couple of excellent albums and a five song EP “single” that are definitely worth snagging. Actually he’s pushed out three albums if you include On The Edge — a mostly Mandarin language album — but today let’s focus on his western fare.

In Just That Kind of a Mood is an interesting collection of standards classics and original arrangements that show off Jonny’s silky, bluesy vocal style. “I Get No Kick From Champagne”, “The Girl From Ipanema” and a fun sporty up tempo version of “Are You Lonesome Tonight” anchor the American Songbook Blu’s selections on this album, but my favorite classic track has to be “King of the Road” … I grew up with Roger Miller’s nephew and have always loved that song. I think Dean Martin does it better than all the rest but JB kicks it here … great track!

About half of In Just That Kind of a Mood are JB original arrangements and they are really very good. My favorites are “Smilin’ Eyes (Ain’t Always Nice)”, “How Can I” and of course the saucy “Ooh-Wee” with a sultry Benny Goodman clarinet riffing along side Jonny … nice.

Jonny heads south of the border with his most recent album Taboo!

In a similar vein as Diana Krall’s Quiet Nights and Sinatra’s excursions with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Taboo! delivers thirteen great renditions of some great Latin standards classics. Starting with the title track and it’s Basie band stylings and on to “Frenesi”, a well done version of “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps”,  super smooth “Say No More” and of course “Babloo”!

There are two versions of “Bèsame Mucho” (one in Spanish) which is extra primo cool with a chasing cornet throughout the song. Jonny reprises “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” in a duet with Juanita Rosa who shadows Jonny nicely but overall there’s not much extra juice in the duet.

The only serious issue I have with this album is that it’s not available on any of the digital “all you can eat” services (Naptster, MOG, Spotify…) for some reason. I noticed that Peer Music shows up on this album’s label for the first time (alongside Dao Feng Music) so I’m not sure what’s up but Jonny, you need to get this fixed man.

In a Groove is a five track EP that includes a couple of songs sifted from JB’s other two albums and three additions — the most noteworthy of which being “Always Something There” … an excellent jaunty version of a Bacharach classic.

People tend to lump guys like Jonny Blu into the “Bublé wannabe” camp (I’ve heard “Connick Jr. wannabe” in Jonny’s case as well), but with JB it’s neither fair nor apt as this kid is the real deal. Jonny is polished and smooth so there are similarities but, he takes fresh license with most of the arrangements and his sometimes bluesy, sometimes jazzy, always smooth vocal styling is distinctive.

If you’re not already … you need to get Blu!

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  • Jimm

    steel tubes? aluminum maybe, unless your flying old aeroflot…

    • Anonymous

      An under appreciated airline… travel budgets being what they are these days!

  • Clariefinch

    Jonny Blu is the best!!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for stopping by Claire! Jonny is one of the great fresh voices bringing the standards … I’m really looking forward to his next album release in February.

  • Mark

    Jonny is not only a great singer but a great perfomer as well! My wife and I went to see him at the Catalina jazz club here in Los angeles and he took the time to say hi, before and after the show, sing a bit to my wife, and just made he night. We have seen both Michael buble and Jonny blu, and my wife says he is a better singer and performer than MB, and I must agree with her.

    • Anonymous

      I look forward to intercepting Jonny on his tour sometime soon. I’ve caught Michael Bublé a couple of times — once in a smallish concert hall that was fabulous and once at a giant arena that was less fabulous. We need to take advantage of catching Jonny while he’s still playing the smaller rooms as even the best performers are not as fun when you have to share them with 15,000 of your best friends!

      Thanks for visiting the site Mark!

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