This Is Always: The Ballad Session
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A stunning follow-up album to ex-Concord vocalist Eden Atwood's debut CD for Groove Note, the bossa nova-inspired Waves' (available as both CD and SACD), This Is Always is an outstanding exploration of the art of the ballad. Deeply soulful and extraordinarily heartfelt, Eden's singing reaches great emotional depths and is perfectly supported by the lyrical and sensitive playing of the great New York-based trumpeter Tom Harrell -- his performances are a major highlight of this album. Features arrangements by 2002 Grammy nominee Bill Cunliffe (piano), Darek Oles (bass) and Larance Marable (drums).
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Suffice it to say, this is the strongest she's sounded in her 12 or more years of recording. There's not a forced or "covered" note on any of of the performances, and as always her tones communicate with a "double-voiced," sub-toned breathiness that's hers alone, even if Harrell practically matches her with a sound less suggestive of a trumpet than a conversational whisper (I don't believe I've heard even Miles or Chet play more laconically and certainly more honestly).
Cunliffe goes beyond substitution chords to reharmonizations of "Serenata" and "Come Rain or Come Shine" that surprise without subverting the melody and lyric. "Deep Purple" is the metamorphosis of a chestnut into a landscape of passionate hues, and "You Leave Me Breathless" is one of the more exacting descriptions of any vocal performance to affect this listener in recent years.
One small gripe: Every performer, with the exception of Sinatra and Oscar Levant, is guilty of taking "Blame It On My Youth" too seriously at the expense of the song's self-deprecating humor. By slowing down the tempo (even more than Kurt Elling's recent, overly earnest interpretation) and treating the lyric with so much gravitas, the present company contribute to the moroseness that is beginning to weigh down on what was intended as an ironic ode to youthful awkwardness and sophomoric excess (perhaps it helped to know Oscar Levant).
I for one would have preferred to hear Eden breathe some new life into "Old Folks" or, for that matter, remind us that Mr. B's "I Want to Talk About You," despite Coltrane's consecration and later canonization of the melody, was written to be sung. In fact, it would have confirmed that loving satisfaction that distinguishes the other 9 ballads on this rich, stunning, and otherwise "blameless" collection.
from a gorgeous rendition of "You Leave Me Breathless", one of ten
beautiful tunes on this stunning recording.Right out of the gate as you listen to the first cut on this cd you'll hear the piano of Bill
Cunliffe & a few seconds later the trumpet of Tom Harrell; two reasons why this album is a thing of beauty. Theres really not much I can add to what's already been said by others who have reviewed this music.
Samuel Chell said that Harrell's trumpet was like a "conversational
whisper".He was right on target & we hear that throughout this recording.He sounds eerily like Chet Baker @ times. Ed Biren in describing Eden's singing said she has the "ability to plumb the emotional core of any song"; also an apt description.
This is my first experience listening to this marvelous singer.For those of you out there who love ballads do yourself a favor and pick this one up.Every tune is to be savored.When Eden sings "Your Nearer" it gives me goose bumps.Eden has an absolutely beautifal voice & her renditions of these tunes are flawless."Blame It On My Youth" is done with just the bass of Derek Oleszkiewicz & the understated trumpet of Harrell."For All We Know" can rip your heart out.
A word to Eden.You need to go into the studio & record Ballad Session
#2. If I could give this one 7 stars I would.It's a gem.
Backed by a superb quartet, Atwood mesmerizes us for the entire album but allows room for the musicians to display their talents as well. Tom Harrell leads the way on the opening number, "Without A Song," but shines with his soft horn playing throughout the set. Bill Cunliffe, who did the arrangements, caught my ear with his piano work on "Day By Day" but is solid on all the numbers. Derek Oleszkiewicz plays bass and is simply fantastic on "Blame It On My Youth" while drummer Lance Marable delivers a solid beat without needing to dominate the action.
The arrangement of "Deep Purple" is particularly noteworthy. I admit I don't remember Helen Forrest's interpretation of this song but I was around in 1963 when Nino Tempo and April Stevens won a Grammy Award for rock 'n roll record of the year with their "cute" version. Well, Eden gives us the grownup rendition--relaxed, sophisticated, magnetic.
Eden Atwood's singing isn't just a passing glow or a moment's gladness. She always leaves me breathless.