Married musical duo Julie Benko and Jason Yeager will release their debut album Hand in Hand August 26. The album’s first single, a cover of Fats Waller’s “Louisiana Fairy Tale,” will be released August 12.
Currently starring as a standby for Fanny Brice in the Broadway revival of Funny Girl—and set to take over the role August 2 for a short stint through September 4 before covering all Thursday performances once Lea Michele joins the company—Benko will be featured on vocals, clarinet, flute, and percussion. Her additional Broadway credits include Fiddler on the Roof and Les Misérables. Pianist-composer Yeagar will accompany on the piano, Wurlitzer, Rhodes, celeste, organ, and percussion.
The album will encompass theatre favorites and hits from the jazz and pop genre, along with original songs. A few Broadway tracks include “People” from Funny Girl, “All I’ve Ever Known” from Hadestown, “If I Were a Bell” from Guys and Dolls, and “Another Life” from The Bridges of Madison County.
Speaking about her Funny Girl cover, Benko says, “I especially enjoyed finding our own spin on the Broadway tunes. With ‘People,’ what are you going to do… copy Barbra? What’s the point of that? So, we tried to find the spirit of the scene the song grows out of. It’s a moment of intimacy, reflection, and seduction, which led to our delicate version.”
Hand in Hand is produced and arranged by Julie Benko and Jason Yeager. Additional highlights from the album include a cover of Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz” and the original compositions “Sweet Pea” and “Just Begun,” the latter of which features a melody to which Benko walked down the aisle at the couple’s wedding.
“Making this record was so rewarding because it feels like an extension of the beautiful intimacy of our life together,” says Benko. “Every single sound on the record was created by one of us. Making music together is one of the unique ways in which we can celebrate, support, and communicate with each other. The fact that we were the only two musicians on the record gave us freedom to be creative, and to try experiments that came to us spontaneously. We obviously have a real comfort together, which makes the musical process feel free and flexible.”
“Every song that we chose has such a special meaning to us and has grown with us in our relationship,” Yeager adds. “And then to be able to come home from the studio and set up microphones in our office and play around with adding extra musical layers, whether that was adding new instruments to the mix or backing vocals, was simply fun”
The pair will celebrate the new recording with a concert at Birdland Jazz Club August 29 at 7PM. For tickets, visit BirdLandJazz.com.