Groovenote proves it once again

You go with what works, and that's what Groovenote has done here. Having scored big with female vocalist Jacintha, the label is hoping to do likewise with the delicious looking, sultry sounding jazz singer Eden Atwood. Again going with what works, Atwood is backed by the pianist/arranger Bill Cunliffe's trio featuring Joe LaBarbera on drums and Derek Oles on bass. The group has become the label's de-facto "house band."

The superb sounding Groovenote D2D 2 LP/SACD Live at Bernie's showcases the group's virtuosity, creativity and cohesiveness as the direct-to-disc process requires live, full takes with no edits or "punch-ins." I was there for the whirlwind sessions and there was more useable material recorded than could be released. Hardly surprising since the well-oiled trio gigs constantly in the L.A. area and elsewhere.

Cunliffe also arranged Lush Life, Jacintha' latest successful outing, augmenting the trio with a hefty string section among other instruments, including Groove Note recording artist, guitarist Anthony Wilson.

On this Bossa Nova-tinged set, the musical mix is simpler: the trio, guitarist Wilson plus, on some tracks Pete Christlieb (tenor sax and flute) and Scott Breadman (percussion). Atwood is a skilled jazz vocalist with superb control, impeccable phrasing and a warm, fluid, yet muscular vibrato-drenched delivery. If Jacintha comes off as a bit of an unapproachable, standoff-ish ice-queen, Atwood jumps in your lap -- cat-like -- all bright and breezy despite a life filled with plenty of heartache, which you'll have to read in the liner notes if this sounds like something that might appeal to you.

Groove Note is not trying to break new ground with its musical choices - certainly not on this disc, anyway. Side one's Brazilian repertoire is familiar: Jobim's "Meditation," "He's A Carioca," and (ugh! Enough already) "The Girl From Ipanema." (Atwood sings to the "boy" from Ipanema, choosing to personalize the song instead of just "reporting" as Astrud Gilberto did on the original). There's also "O Pato" ("The Duck") which fans of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd's ground breaking Jazz Samba will recognize, with words by John Hendricks. Side two is a mixed bag that includes "Once Upon a Summertime," Ellington's "Don't You Know I Care," "Fool on the Hill,", "Brazil," and "It's a Quiet Thing."

Listening through this set, makes it obvious that yes, Atwood is a fine, compelling singer easily able to carry the date, but I'm not sure that Cunliffe's florid style is really suited to Bossa Nova, nor does the extremely talented drummer Joe LaBarbera seem to have the light touch required to make the BN beat become airborne. In fact, I'm not even sure the piano is well-suited to the task, played by anyone. Bossa Nova is, after all, Brazilian folk music dominated by a lilting rhythm, and while Jobim occasionally played piano, he kept it down to almost a single finger. Cunliffe's busy style tends to "gum up the works." Anthony Wilson's crisp acoustic rhythm guitar comping is what saves the musical day, though on "Brazil" the ensemble packs an appropriately frothy punch and the tune takes flight. Another highlight is the closer, "It's a Quiet Thing," a ballad that gives Atwood a chance to really show off what she (and Cunliffe) can really accomplish. Ditto the standard "How Deep Is the Ocean," on the bonus 45.

Quibbles notwithstanding, there's still a great deal of pleasure to be derived from this disc, both musically, and especially sonically. It's another superb Michael C. Ross recording - however it was recorded - intimate, warm and natural, though on the vinyl edition, tracking Atwood's sibilants will give some analog front ends fits.

For fans of female vocalists, Atwood is a genuine find. Though she's not been placed in what I would call an ideal setting here, there are enough shining moments to make this superb sounding disc worth picking up. Great late night listening.

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mommyiloveyou's picture

I am so excited to grab a copy of this album, for me Jacintha is the best singer of all time, she's really my favorite. - YORHealth