One spring evening at Haven Bistro on the Lake, diners are enchanted by the suave notes of North Austin singer-songwriter Julie Slim and her band Rendezvous.
Some in the packed house come from as far as Houston to dine and listen to the music.
Others just stroll over from their condo at the Island on Lake Travis.
Phil Spencer plays jazz bass, Shirley Johnson squeezes the accordion, and renowned jazz pianist Shawn Ellison tickles the ivories.
Gypsy jazz fans take note: when not playing with Rendezvous, Shirley plays with Michelle Alany’s Nefesh Joykestra and Phil with Rent Party and Hot Club of Austin.
Membership in Rendezvous is fluid, Julie says. Like many bands, it rotates musicians in and out as their availability changes.
“I envision it as a meeting place of all the cultures that influence me,” she says, “and an opportunity to collaborate with amazing local musicians.”
It’s no surprise that Julie Slim and Rendezvous received the February 2016 Akademia Award for Best Jazz/Lounge Song. Listen to the winning song, Petite Fleur.
Dr. James Polk is also among her collaborators. The professor emeritus, who retired from Texas State University in 2006, has worked with Julie on arrangements for many songs on her CDs.
Polk’s earlier work with Ray Charles earned him two Grammy nominations.
Frequent band members who didn’t make it out to the lake include James Anderson, who also plays violin with the Austin Piazzolla Quintet, and drummer Joe McCreary.
Catch her where you can
If you missed hearing her with Rendezvous, don’t despair. Julie is also a substitute vocalist for Austin Jazz Workshop’s George Gershwin program.
“In addition,” she notes, “I collaborate with several world music bands in Austin.” Among them are Atlas Maior, Indimaj, 1001 Nights Orchestra, and Bereket, the University of Texas Middle Eastern ensemble.
Her full band will perform for Bastille Day celebrations at the French Legation in Austin, July 9 from 7 to 10 p.m.
And she sings with the Austin branch of Threshold Choir, usually at Hospice Austin’s Christopher House, for hospice and nursing home patients.
Family of creatives
Julie’s husband, Dr. Sani Nassif, has his own software company that develops programs to increase the speed and efficiency of cancer treatments.
Their two daughters live in New York City. The elder is a classical actress in Queens, the younger a jeweler and metalsmith in Brooklyn. Julie wears an elaborate ring her daughter made of heirloom lace and ribbon dipped in sterling silver.
Julie and Sani grew up in Beirut, Lebanon. Julie was educated in French and Arabic in primary school and added English in middle school. Sani took the opposite route, attending American school, “learning English and Arabic first, then French in middle school.”
Greek, Armenian, Turkish, Italian and Spanish are among the languages Julie speaks — and sings in.
She will be singing in yet another language, Bosnian, on April 23 as a guest vocalist, along with Vesna Mirkovicwith, for the Balkan Caravan. You can catch that performance at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center in Austin, an event presented by Austin Troubadours.
Having grown up on the Mediterranean, Julie loves Lake Travis.
“It’s gorgeous and peaceful,” she says. An avid swimmer, Julie completed the Cap 2K one year. She also enjoys kayaking and canoeing on the lake.
The evening at Haven passes in a delightful blur, with Julie crooning songs like “J’ai deux amours,” made famous by Josephine Baker. “I Shouldn’t Care” and “La vie en rose,” originally sung by Édith Piaf, are familiar but fresh in Julie’s rendition.
Several couples, including a pair celebrating their wedding anniversary, can’t resist dancing. Their joyful movement on the floor provides further entertainment for those shy to dance.
If you have a chance to see Julie Slim perform, whether with Rendezvous or another ensemble, jump at it. And enjoy!