Petra van Nuis (pronounced Pay-tra van Nouse) is a Chicago-based jazz vocalist who has been described in Downbeat Magazine as having "a light, gorgeous, and fairly delicate voice...a gift for melody and plenty of rhythmic confidence."
A Chicagoan since 2003, Petra sings at all the finest jazz venues in town including the Jazz Showcase, the Green Mill, Katerina's, Andy's Jazz Club, Fitzgerald's, the City Winery, and the Old Town School of Folk Music. Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs has presented Petra's groups at the Chicago Cultural Center and Chicago Summer Dance. The Jazz Institute of Chicago has featured Petra's Recession Seven band at the Chicago Jazz Festival and Jazz City. Along with six other Chicago jazz artists, she was nominated for the "Best Jazz Entertainer 2013" for the 33rd Annual Chicago Music Awards.
Germany's Jazzpodium Magazine hails Petra's fourteen year musical collaboration with her husband, guitarist Andy Brown, as "a magical musical dialogue, which can only partially be described as blind understanding." Festival highlights for the duo include Joe Boughton's Chautauqua Jazz Party and the Gorinchem Jazz Festival (Holland's oldest jazz festival). Petra and Andy's romantic style has been enjoyed in intimate club settings around the country including Shanghai Jazz (Madison, NJ), Night Town (Cleveland,OH), the Saugatuck Center for the Arts (Saugatuck, MI), and the Blue Wisp Jazz Club (Cincinnati, OH). Several European tours have brought the duo to Germany (Jazzhaus Heidelberg, Le Pirate, Jazz Club Neustadt, Jazz Club 77, Musikhaus Birlkehof) to the Netherland's (Stichting Jazz Zevenbergen) and to Belgium (Jazz Cafe Hopper). With the re-release of their 2009 critically acclaimed CD Far Away Places on Japan's Muzak label, Petra and Andy continue to spread their swinging sounds far and wide.
Petra and Andy often augment their duo with bassist Joe Policastro and drummer Bob Rummage forming the Petra van Nuis Quartet. In addition to Chicago performances, the quartet frequently tours the Midwest having played for the West Michigan Jazz Society (Grand Rapids, MI), Polyrhytms (Davenport,IA), the Firefly Jazz Club (Ann Arbor, MI), the Wilson Center for the Arts (Milwaukee, WI), the Detroit Institute for the Arts (Detroit, MI), and headlined the 32nd Michelob Women In Jazz Festival (Dayton, OH).
At the start of the Great Recession in September 2008, Petra's Recession Seven, a Chicago-style early swing/trad jazz band was born at Chicago's legendary Green Mill. This seven piece ensemble features an all-star line up of internationally known Chicago veterans including trombonist Russ Phillips, clarinetist Kim Cusack, and trumpeter Bob Ojeda. Festival appearances include the 33rd annual Chicago Jazz Festival, the 34th & 35th annual Cedar Basin Jazz Festival, Fitzgerald's 29th annual American Music Festival, and the Illiana Club of Traditional Jazz's 40th anniversary Jazz Festival. The band regularly travels to regional jazz societies such as the Juvae Jazz Society, the Madison Jazz Society, the Starr-Gennett Foundation, the "Masters of Swing" series at Cincinnati's Xavier University, the Lafayette Jazz Club, and the Indianapolis Jazz Club. The American Rag, in a review of the band's 2011 on location recording Live In Chicago praises "a killer of a band that grabs your attention and doesn't give it back until they are finished playing."
You may have heard selections from Petra's 2006 debut CD A Sweet Refrain on digital cable's Music Choice, where it regularly rotates on the "Singers & Swing" channel. This throwback to the classic vocal recordings of the 50's is a blend of duo, quartet, quintet, and tight two-horn sextet arrangements by bassist/arranger Joe Policastro. In 2012, these arrangements were recreated with the teaming of Petra and Andy with four Canadian musicians at Edmonton's famed Yardbird Suite. In a review of the CD, Los Angeles Jazz Scene critic Scott Yanow notes "a sweet voice, a straightforward delivery....one hears touches of Billie Holiday, Blossom Dearie, and Mildred Bailey in her phrasing, but not in the sound of her voice which is distinctive."
Petra has formed two significant musical relationships with Chicago pianists. Her duo with pianist Larry Harris continues to blossom since their first gig together in 2006. Their shared aesthetic was immediately evident and they have been making beautiful music together ever since. Their 2010 concert for the International Association for Jazz Record Collectors Conference was praised in IAJRC Journal by the association's President Ian Tiele as "a hard act to follow" that "held the audience spellbound."
Upon Petra's arrival in Chicago in 2003, she sought out veteran singer/pianist Judy Roberts who quickly took Petra under her wing. Judy and Petra's engaging duo, known for obscure tunes, impromptu medleys, and lush vocal harmonies always creates a special listening experience.
Petra continues to play with Chicago's finest instrumentalists including Eric Schneider, Bobby Lewis, Art Davis, Greg Fishman, Joe Adamik, Jeremy Kahn, Dennis Luxion, Phil Gratteau, Dan Delorenzo, Tom Bartlett, Mike Schlick, Bradley Williams, Doug Hayes, Ron Dewar, John Otto, Stewart Miller, and Don Stiernberg.» Early Years