Eden Atwood exhibits a confidence that few jazz vocalists of her generation seem to have in standards. While others seem to be opting for lightweight rock hits from the 1970s and 1980s, Atwood is able to find new approaches to old chestnuts that seem to be overlooked in the early 21st century. She shines in pianist Bill Cunliffe's loping arrangement of "Without a Song." Atwood restores the frequently omitted verse to "This Is Always," then steps back to feature Tom Harrell's brilliant, fragile trumpet, while conveying the lyrics with a sincerity that few singers seem able to convey. "Blame It on My Youth" is a powerful performance. She sings the verse unaccompanied, with bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz joining her afterward as her sole backing, then Harrell's emotional trumpet takes her place to wrap it. Cunliffe's piano playing in "Deep Purple" is a throwback to an earlier era, as Atwood captures the nuances of this gem. But it is hard to surpass her moving rendition of "You Leave Me Breathless." Atwood and her musicians are clearly having fun in their fresh take of "Come Rain or Come Shine," with space devoted to Cunliffe's down-home piano and Harrell's spirited trumpet, as well as the leader's confident vocals. The haunting finale is "For All We Know," a lush duet for voice and piano. Highly recommended.
This Is Always: Ballad Session Review
by Ken Dryden