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Recorded live at Chicago’s PianoForte, Because We’re Night People more than lives up to its name. Solely accompanied by pianist Dennis Luxion, singer Petra van Nuis pays tribute to the night with songs that are as nuanced as the varied nocturnal shades they inhabit. Over the course of 13 elegant tracks, the duo becomes effortlessly complicit in conjuring the seductive contradictions that emerge as the sun sets.
Van Nuis and Luxion bring out the best in each other as they reimagine classics such as “You and the Night and the Music,” and reinvigorate obscure songs like Henry Mancini’s “Shadows of Paris,” which plays during the opening credits of the Pink Panther flick A Shot in the Dark, and “Night People,” from the short-lived 1959 Broadway show The Nervous Set.
While the session is mostly down-tempo, fresh ideas and creative harmonic transitions keep the set charged with electricity and anticipation, as piano and voice create atmospheres brimming with beguiling intimacy and mystery. Van Nuis exudes tenderness and sensual warmth with her phrasing over Luxion’s languid lines on “While My Lover Sleeps.” On “Dreamsville,” Luxion’s serene, lyrical piano cushions the singer’s wistful rumination, her voice delicately tinged with nostalgia as she repeats the lyric “faraway.” Sonny Burke’s “Black Coffee” ripples with bluesy undertones that have the singer gliding fluidly atop Luxion’s rumbling riffs, while “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” poignantly closes the album with an expression of gratitude as sleep begins to descend and the nighttime slowly turns to day.
Van Nuis and Luxion weave a collection of spellbinding sonic snapshots that movingly capture the intricacies of life under the cover of darkness. The results are pure magic.— Lissette Corsa