Monday, January 28, 2013

Madeline Eastman / Randy Porter A Quiet Thing Mad-Kat 2012

A Quiet Thing I've been surprised a great deal at some of the amazing releases that have crossed my desk this year (O.K. This is number two but you feel me). Surprised and "moved" are two different animals with Eastman holding down her role as a vocal artist that can stir something deep inside the listener as well as any vocal talent I have heard across multiple genres. Joined by pianist Randy Porter, A Quiet Thing is an exquisite release of deconstructed ballads but never reharmed to the point where the beautiful melody is lost in the shuffle as happens to so many artists intent on showing what they consider creativity yet to the point even the original composer struggles to recognize his own material.

What makes the Eastman style so intriguing is that her phrasing is oddly reminiscent of a post bop saxophonist while never losing the burn that only a torch singer can bring to such iconic tunes as "Alfie" and "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most." By "torch singer" I am referring to the inherent blues like quality that singers such as Billie Holiday all the way to Dee Dee Bridgewater have mastered while adding a musicality that is virtually impossible to duplicate, until now. Another reason A Quiet Thing works so incredibly well is the eclectic set of tunes that run from The Beach Boys to Chick Corea and Randy Newman. A simple melody is a beautiful thing and in the hands of an artist such as Eastman and Porter can make a forty year old tune breath with new life. Old school becoming new cool.

Such is the case with "Alfie" where this Hal David, Burt Bacharach tune is translated with silky smooth perfection and jazz sensibilities that few could pull off. The classic Jerome Kern / Dorothy Fields tune "Pick Yourself Up" is deconstructed down to an intimate ballad where the reharm adds a soulful charm and allows Eastman to hold a master class in vocal jazz. The Beach Boys standard "God Only Knows" gave me some cause for worry however this was soon elevated when the textured reharm showed just how well a perfectly conceived melody can stand up to virtually any genre.

Madeline Eastman has a gorgeous tone, impeccable phrasing and can play catch and release with a note as well as any vocalist I have ever heard. Pianist Randy Porter is the perfect match as an accompanist and together they form an inspired duet that will continue to entertain for years to come.

Tunes: Alfie; Pick Yourself Up; Sea Journey; Spring Can Really Hang You Up; A Face Like Yours; I Remember; The Bad And The Beautiful; All Of Us In It; I Never Meant To Hurt You; You Are All I Need; It's A Quiet Thing; I Think It's Going To Rain Today; With One More Look At You; God Only Knows.

Personnel: Madeline Eastman: vocals; Randy Porter: piano.