Eden Atwood has a lovely voice but this CD (which is dominated by ballads) features little improvising and much of the material has been overdone through the years. Her versions of "It Never Entered My Mind" (a song she is too young to sing) and "The Nearness of You" are far from definitive, Atwood interprets "Sonny Boy" with such seriousness that one wonders if she ever heard Al Jolson's version, and by speeding up "You're My Thrill" she drains that song of all its sensuality. Her rhythm section (pianist Dave Berkman, bassist Michael Moore and drummer Ron Vincent) is supportive without making an impression while the guest appearances of pianist Marian McPartland and tenorman Chris Potter are not enough to uplift this set. Eden Atwood, 26 at the time of this recording (her third Concord CD) is fine as a middle-of-the-road pop singer but she will have to work on her improvising abilities before she can be taken all that seriously by the jazz world.
All Music Guide
In a profession where self adulation more often that not supplants a sense of modesty, Eden Atwood's candor is refreshing. "I think I'm a good singer now," she allows, "but I don't think I'm half of what I could be."
And if Eden is correct in her prediction that she'll be singing and making albums when she's 80, her growing legion of enchanted fans have a lot to look forward to.
After all, at the tender age of 26, the Montana-nurtured, big city-polished chanteuse may be just getting started, but what a charmed entrEe to the ranks of the jazz vocal tradition it's been! From her acclaimed debut on Concord, "No One Ever Tells You," through the equally enticing follow-up, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," to the release of this remarkable album, Eden Atwood has confirmed that she's a vocal stylist with an unfaltering knack for picking just the right songs, the perfect tempos and the most creative and supportive accompanists. And she just happens to sing the hell out of some of the most challenging songs of the past 50 years.
A quintessential overachiever, Eden enjoyed fruitful if short-lived careers as a model and actress before surrendering to what had become an obsessive desire to make it as a jazz singer. "Anytime there was a piano bar or a jazz combo, I'd always be sitting in, singing the songs I knew.
When I moved to Chicago, I ended up waiting tables at a place that had jazz, and that was just it! I never did anything else after that."
But breaking in wasn't easy, as she discovered after relocating to New York City. "There was a time recently when I was considering giving up singing completely and moving to Colorado to have babies and having that be it. I guess I had reached the point in my life where it was either hang it up or start working and become an honest-to-God musician. It's either do it or don't do it."
And as either of her Concord albums has confirmed in warm and swinging terms, Eden has emerged as one of the most distinctive, all-around talented singers to enter the crowded ranks of the female jazz vocal tradition in years.
"There Again" is Eden's most demanding program yet, a test of her evolving stylistic maturity that she handles with aplomb. The spare accompaniment of solo piano, trio and quartet places the focus squarely where Eden wants it: on her vocal abilities.
The lyrics of the opening track, "It Never Entered My Mind," provided the words for the album's title. "I picked it because it just knocks me out," Eden says of the Rodgers and Hart masterpiece. "It's meant to talk about that place you always find yourself back at no matter how evolved you get in life."
"You're My Thrill," out of Billie Holiday's song book, is a gorgeous tune that few singers have tackled in recent decades. "Dave (Berkman) and I came up with this great ostinato 'Killer Joe' kind of bass line," Eden notes. "It's a wonderful song." Pianist Berkman, bassist Michael Moore and drummer Ron Vincent prove here and elsewhere that they are the kind of dream rhythm team singers would commit treason for.
The venerable standard "The Nearness of Your" shows off its classic beauty in a trio arrangement featuring pianist Marian McPartland and an arresting vocal excursion by Eden. The performance is one of two featuring McPartland, a special mentor whose presence was particularly rewarding for the singer.
Throughout the program, the singer displays a wide range of emotions and stylistic approaches. "Music That Makes Me Dance," by composer Jule Styne, one of her favorite writers, is what she calls "a killer," out of the era of Gershwin and Porter but "more modern."
I'm Always Drunk in San Francisco," appropriately rousing in Eden's version, is a tribute to Carmen McRae, one of her idols. "I heard her do the tune, and she was so cool." Tenor saxophonist Chris Potter makes his presence known in fiery terms. "God, I just love him,'' Eden says of the rising star. "I think he's so fabulous, and he's younger than I am!"
"Everything I've Got Belongs to You" was done with singer Blossom Dearie in mind. "I like her because she's funny," Eden states. "A lot of people lost their sense of humor when it comes to music, and if it doesn't groove, who cares?" It grooves!
For "Auld Lang Syne," she learned the correct pronunciation of the words from a Scottish gentleman her mother-in-law put her in touch with. And so it goes in Eden's search for that special approach, from the clever way she and the trio modernized the '50s standard "Only You" to her loving treatment of Al Jolson's "Sonny Boy," every song on the album is given the individual, loving treatment it deserves. No quick-and-dirty takes here.
"I've reached a place musically where, interpretively speaking, I can still grow as an artist," this independent-minded singer says while planning to tell her record company bosses that she'd like to take some extra time off before producing her next album.
"I need to broaden the scope of my musicianship, to get my piano chops up so I can be more in control of my vision and not be so dependent on other people to help me create my voice," she confides. "And I feel like I'm getting ready to head into a major learning curve in terms of my musicianship, my spirituality, my family, all kinds of things."
After all, this is a singer whose most important role model is none other than the late Sarah Vaughan, unquestionably the music's most complete stylist. The pursuit of perfection can't be rushed.
"My prime is yet to come," Eden admits. "At my age, you're still figuring things out."
Take all the time you need. We'll be here when you're ready!
(c) 1995 Concord Jazz, Inc.