more reviews and articles

The New York Times, Thursday, November 17, 2005
Jazz Review
Back in Town, A Singer Picks Up Right Where She Left Off
Dominique Eade, Sweet Rhythm
By Ben Ratliff

In the mid-90's, Dominique Eade was near the top of the list of the new jazz singers. Her voice was rich and clear and strong in all ranges; she had musicianship and cool intelligence and didn't seem to be ahistorical, or to have arrived at jazz by accident.

She had absorbed some of Sarah Vaughan's fearsome technique and never came on like an earth mother, a vamp or a fire engine. She knew a great deal, but didn't jape or smirk. (She wasn't a downtown singer.) She had an excellent band. She chose older songs shrewdly, and she wrote her own. She bossed around a standard just enough to discipline it, but first of all made it a safe place for good, rigorous, detailed improvising.

Ms. Eade recorded two albums for BCA, but the deal was over by the end of the 90's, and since then she has rarely played in New York, teaching voice at the New England Conservatory and raising children. (Meanwhile, her students, including Luciana Souza, Julie Hardy and David Devoe, have found their footing.) On Tuesday, she came back for a quartet gig at Sweet Rhythm, with the pianist Jed Wilson, the bassist Ben Street and the drummer Matt Wilson, and started up again where she had left off.

In "Home," an obscure song recorded by Helen Humes that has been in Ms. Eade's repertory for a long time, she established the breadth of her voice immediately: in one line, she could make it very small, thin and high, the broaden and deepen it without exaggeration.

More good song choices were arranged for duets. On Hoagy Carmichael's "Ole Buttermilk Sky," she played with bass alone, scatting through a middle section, hunching over and concentrating as she rearranged harmony. And she recast "The Tender Trap" - recorded by Frank Sinatra at a medium tempo - with extreme speed, for voice and drums alone. It was a show-off arrangement, but not an empty one. Sweet Rhythm's small, boxy dimensions and wooden floors naturally amplify drummers and Ms. Eade had to push hard to be heard against Mr. Wilson, who played aggressively. While keeping time in fast syllables, mirroring his crashes and combinations with odd note choices, she had to find her most piercing frequency. She got to very nearly a shriek, and as a rule Ms Eade doesn't shriek.

There were a few originals with smart, clean arrangements and purple lyrics about memory and time. (The sensible qualities in the rest of her music sometimes don't extend to the words.) One of them was "The River," with a bass-alone beginning moving into rat-a-tat drumming and liquid, widely voiced piano chords. But in another old song, "Body and Soul" - a much more obvious choice, and that much harder to justify - she asserted herself again. Here she used a lot of her ornamental devices, including short, girlish bounces on a single tone, which finally spread out to full, long tones. And on the final iteration of the word "body," she expanded the second syllable across 15 notes, building a solo in accurate pitch without sliding or shading.

Back to Reviews and Articles List >