Eden Atwood is a young singer whose appeal sometimes compensates on her second Concord release for a few shortcomings. She has a clear and attractive voice and is at her best on ballads but occasionally (as on "Not While I'm Around") borders on being a cabaret singer. In contrast, on the uptempo mateiral her scatting and improvising skills are not fully mature nor all that adventurous. To her credit she gives her sidemen (particularly Ken Peploski on clarinet and tenor) plenty of solo space on the more cooking material. Atwood does write intelligent lyrics (best are "Silent Movie" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"), is quite expressive on the ballads and shows versatility but at this point she does not stand apart from the crowd of young jazz vocalists. Her future progress should be worth watching though.
All Music Guide
Just as everyone was worrying about a lack of great jazz instrumentalists to follow the legendary founders of the art, suddenly a new generation emerged beginning around 1980, strutting out after Wynton Marsalis.
For the singers, attention was longer and harder in coming. In the vanguard of the best in the 1990s is Eden Atwood, a pretty, willowy woman with a lovely, refreshing voice, perfect intonation, ineffable swing and talent for writing and composing. She has studied everyone, especially Sarah Vaughan, and yet she sounds like nobody but herself.
She was born on January 11, 1969 in Memphis. Her father, Hub Atwood, a well-known arranger-composer, took her to recording studios, and Eden began singing two songs her mother taught her, one of which was "Rufus Rastus Johnson Brown," with Dixieland combos in pizza parlors - all before she was five.
That years, her parents divorced, and she and her mother moved to Montana to be near family, most of whom were cattle ranchers, with the exception of her grandfather, A. B. Guthrie, Jr., author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "The Way West." Eden spent summers with Hub on the music scene in Memphis. "My dad was great." (He wrote "Tell Me All About Yourself," which Nat Cole sang.
Eden used her father's tune, "No One Ever Tells You," for the title of her first Concord album in 1993.)Her mother encouraged her, too; Eden studied piano for ten years.
At 17, she took the early admissions pathway to the drama program at the University of Montana at Missoula. Working in summer stock, she quickly washed off her makeup after the shows and rushed to a club where she sat in with a jazz combo every night.
Since there was no jazz department at school, she headed for Chicago at age 19, where she sang with a group at Tony's Cucina and spent six months at the American Conservatory of Music. Then she approached Bill Allen, a co-owner of the Gold Star Sardine Bar, "a good listening room," she says. He hired her to sing on Mondays; after a while she became the headliner, Wednesdays through Saturdays.
Pianist Brad Williams gave her advice about music; Bill Allen coached her in stagecraft. "I'm about storytelling...I'm not the back-to-the audience type. Sarah Vaughan had plenty of cabaret in her. She always sold it to me."
Eden heard Sarah sing at George's, a Chicago club, and afterward went backstage, winding up with the thrill of hanging out at the Green Mill with her idol. When Eden went to hear Joe Williams, she gave him an audition tape she had made at the conservatory. He encouraged her, saying, "Sweetheart, it's apparent to me that you sing because you have to."
Now come the part of the story that may explain why Eden took risks at a young age and developed her own sound and style. Her father died, and Eden, keenly feeling the loss and wanting to take charge of her life and career more than ever, married briefly.
When the marriage didn't work out, she went to New York, where she worked as a model and an actress in a television series for about a year. "I love to act. But I realized that if I don't sing, I am miserable. I'm just a wreck. There's no me without jazz. So I went back to the Gold Star Sardine Bar."
Meanwhile, home near the range, in Butte, Montana, her mother passed Eden's audition tape to a friend, who knew pianist Marian McPartland. Marian sent it to Carl Jefferson at Concord. A month later, Eden had a recording contract. She has since appeared at the Hotel Algonquin's Oak Room and Michael's Pub, two high profile Manhattan music rooms.
She commutes between New York, Chicago, where she still sings at the Gold Star Sardine Bar, and Los Angeles, to sing and act. Her admiration for singers keeps increasing. "It's tough. You're not being a character, you're being yourself. You can't hide from mistakes.
But sometimes it's a transcendent experience." She keeps up with albums by her contemporaries and learns from her elders such as Abbey Lincoln and Sheila Jordan, "because they sing things their own way. I love Carmen McRae, Shirley Horn and Johnny Hartman with 'Trane." Whatever money I make I spend on records."
"Down Beat" has called her "a gifted and lovely singer." On "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," named for her own witty, funky tune, every musician swings with her. She took Marian McPartland's slow bossa nova and wrote a vivacious, uptempo arrangement for "Twilight World." Her lyrics for her tune, "Silent Movie," are poignant - "I want to love you in a silent movie. We never argue or fight. I never say the wrong thing." "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" shows her exquisite voice. Ken Peplowski's fat-toned, luxuriant clarinet brightens every tune it touches, as does the beautiful, heart-warming vibrato of alto saxophonist Jesse Davis. In the dashing rhythm section, pianist Allen Farnham seems to be everyplace at once and never lingers long anyplace, simultaneously creating and supporting.
There's a dash of Sarah V. in Eden's shimmering scat work on "My Ship," and a moment of Streisand on an affecting nasal note in "Never Let Me Go." But mostly this is pure Eden.