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Go on – spoil yourself

This is Always: The Ballads Session
This is Always: The Ballads Session
By Eden Atwood

Groove Note Records: 2004

This review first appeared in the Spring 2004 issue of Turbula.

If you've not gotten turned on to Eden Atwood, you're denying yourself one of life's great, guilty pleasures. Listening to her is on a par with partaking of the best chocolates, sipping the best bourbons, sleeping on the finest linens.

Atwood doesn't have a particularly strong voice, but she has a delivery that is practically unmatched in its artistry and sophistication in the contemporary scene.

Diana Krall? Norah Jones? Please. Nothing more than pleasant, off-the-shelf indulgences.

Atwood, as she again shows on her latest release, "This Is Always: The Ballad Session," is not only one of the best jazz singers of her generation, but could have held her own in any generation.

Pianist Bill Cunliffe again handles the arrangements (as he did on 2002's "Waves: The Bossa Nova Session"), and creates a lean but smart backdrop on which Atwood can paint. Bassist Derek Oleszkiewicz and drummer Larance Marable provide a supper club ambience, while trumpeter Tom Harrell provides a response to Atwood's vocals.

What is most mesmerizing about this recording is the way that Atwod is fully a member of the band; the featured star, sure, but still a part of a larger fabric. She doesn't sing over the band – she sings with the band.

And the sparser the arrangement, the more revealing Atwood's performance. On "Blame it on My Youth," she is backed only by bass, accompanied only by trumpet, and the result is utterly beguiling. Oleszkiewicz plays his acoustic bass more like a guitar; Harrell's response to Atwood's main theme is all the more passionate for its restraint.

This is the good stuff – intelligent, emotive music that will feed your soul.