Julie Mahendran

Moving On (Grant MacEwan Alumni Magazine)

Listening to Julie Mahendran’s warm, playful jazz vocals, you can’t picture her slaving away over spreadsheets. But, for a while at least, she toyed with the idea of becoming an accountant.

While studying business at the U of A, however, Mahendran she joined the U of A Mixed Chorus. It didn’t take her long to figure out where she was most comfortable. “The chorus was basically my whole social
life,” she recalls. “I didn’t really have a whole lot to do with the other business students.”

After completing her degree, she continued to gravitate towards music. “I went down to Waterton Lakes and waitressed at the Prince of Wales Hotel. There was a piano player in the dining room who played jazz standards and he was very encouraging. He gave me some sheet music to look at and learn and he let me sit in and sing a few tunes during the dining hours. I just loved it. I don’t remember being all that nervous or afraid.”

Even so, she flirted with yet another career before finally choosing music. After a year off to travel, she applied to (and was accepted by) the U of A’s law program. “I hadn’t done my audition at MacEwan yet,” she explains. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.”

...Mahendran had a memorable audition. “I sang Thelonious Monk’s ’Round Midnight. I thought nothing of it at the time but in retrospect, for someone who hadn’t sung a lot of jazz, it was definitely a tricky song to choose.”

At MacEwan, Mahendran studied for two years under Chandelle Rimmer. “She gave me a really good foundation for singing in general. To be able to use proper breathing techniques and things like that. She was a great friend as well.”

After MacEwan, Mahendran worked in Edmonton for a year. She was saving up to study music at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College. Since graduating in 2000, she has lived in Toronto.

Edmonton remains a musical touchstone for Mahendran, however. In the summer of 2003, during a three-week visit home, she decided to finally record a full-length CD. “I thought I’d put together a band, find some studio space, and just go and record an album. I figured it was now or never.”

The result, Never Do Without You, features one original song by Mahendran, a challenge she hopes to explore more. “Songwriting is tough. It’s the thing I feel the least naturally gifted at. But I want to go more in an original direction.”

That direction will likely involve more of a groove, suggests Mahendran. “I feel inspired when people are moved to dance when I’m
playing. I’d like to have that in my own solo career as well.”

She has definitely landed in the right field. After all, people rarely dance for their accountants.

Douglaz.com (Sweden)

"Learning that singer Julie Mahendran's studied privately with Manhattan Transfer's Cheryl Bentyne, didn't come as much of a surprise after having heard Mahendran in action. But, where Manhattan Transfer is refined and more than a bit sleep inducing, Mahendran's refined and quite charming in a way that reminds me of the great Jon Hendricks. It's rarely a good idea to delve too deeply into academic jazz studies and here and there you can hear how doing this has affected this former Berklee student, but most of the time she is just plain awesome. Backed only by drummer Daniel Skakun and John Taylor on bass, she treats the listener to a clever mix of standards, covers and originals, among them I'll Be Seeing You, pop artist George Michael's Kissing A Fool and her own standout track Killer. Proving that she too finds Mr. Hendricks well worth honoring, there's an impressive version of his take on Miles Davis' classic Freddie Freeloader. Intricate vocal arrangements, solid backup from the band and nice sound by engineer John Blerot, provides a great backdrop for this gifted Canadian."

NOW Magazine (Toronto)

(4 "N"s out of 5) "Maybe it's Julie Mahendran's unabashed love for pop music, like her take on George Michael's Kissing A Fool, that sets this jazz album apart from the overwhelming amount of staunch traditionalist fare out there. Rather than simply imitating past masters like Ella and Billie, the Toronto-based singer offers interesting twists on old standards - check her fun-loving vocals on the Miles Davis classic Freddie Freeloader - and lays the groundwork for her unique original numbers. There's also a groove-based funky feel to a few of the tunes that balances the mellow ballads perfectly. With only drums and acoustic bass as backup, Mahendran has nothing to hide behind, but fortunately, her voice and phrasing are solid enough to pull it off."

Edmonton Journal

"Never Do Without You finds (Julie) tackling her material with real finesse and taste.... Mahendran shows a versatile range in the 10 tunes she brought together, including hints of pop and groove-based music, mostly standard material and one new original piece called Killer. But there's more. The centrepiece of the disc is an impressive nine-minute take on Freddie Freeloader, known to many fans of the Miles Davis album Kind Of Blue."