Julie Koenig’s debut album Renaissance Woman explores what it means to be a woman – both the strengths and vulnerabilities – through the singer-songwriter genre and jazz.
Unapologetic about her features and her attitude, Koenig uses them to draw strength and elicit feminist ideals. She opens with “The Lady is a Tramp,” a jazz standard by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Here, she takes the slanderous name and runs with it, saying the only “trampy” thing about her is that she doesn’t fit the Barbie doll or Stepford wife image, employing a fierce set of original lyrics on being rambunctious and demanding.
In “Anthropology/Counting Calories,” Koenig’s original lyrics over a Charlie Parker tune muse about the freedom she feels when she isn’t concerned about her figure. She closes with “Wild Women Don’t Have The Blues” by Ida Cox, where she wails about not settling and not submitting to men who mistreat women and disrespect relationships.
Her feminist grounding also comes through in the musicians she selected: Mckenna Reeve on drums, Domi Edson on bass, and Amaya Arevalo on piano – all of whom are notable, Colorado-based female jazz musicians.
Koenig’s vulnerable side comes through on her song “Fig Tree,” an original melody written atop an excerpt from Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar. It tells the story of a woman who can see a multitude of life scenarios at her fingertips, but stricken by the fear of choosing only one, time and age slowly leave her with no choices.
A tribute is paid to pianist and singer Nina Simone, with Koenig’s take on “Nobody.” Moved by Simone’s somber interpretation, she shares in that loneliness by using this one moment to accompany herself on piano.
Spending most of her career playing jazz standards across Northern Colorado, Renaissance Woman gives Koenig a rebirth in establishing herself as a songwriter, telling stories about what it means to be a woman, including the strengths, the vulnerability, and sometimes the unglamourous side.