Madeline Eastman

Speed of Life

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    5
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AllMusic Review by

Madeline Eastman has garnered critical praise for her ability to deconstruct familiar tunes and turn them into something new and unique. On her fifth album, she continues to do so with a well-chosen program of jazz standards; but whether her reconstructed versions of these classic songs are improvements on the originals is an open question. It's not just that she takes melodic liberties; what can be off-putting is her tendency to flatten melodic shapes and deliver the tunes in a sing-songy, declamatory style that occasionally makes it sound as if she simply doesn't know the tune and is wandering around trying to find the melody. This is clearly not actually the case, but it's too often the effect. Her renditions of the Rodgers & Hart standard "There's a Small Hotel" and the Rodgers & Hammerstein composition "We Kiss in a Shadow" suffer especially from that tendency. On the other hand, her scat arrangement of "Jogral" is brilliant, and she gives the 1960s pop hit "Up on the Roof" a wonderfully quirky and gentle treatment. Her strutting delivery on "Where or When" ends the program in style. Throughout the album, her band (which is centered around pianist Randy Porter and the great bassist Rufus Reid) plays with effortless accuracy and crackling energy, even on the ballads. Recommended overall, though Eastman's approach will be an acquired taste for some.

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