Madeline Eastman and Randy Porter, ‘A Quiet Thing’ (Mad-Kat)
The incomparable San Francisco jazz singer Madeline Eastman has released a second all-ballad album, this time with Portland pianist Randy Porter. It’s brilliant. But be advised: this is an album for grown-ups. From “Alfie” and “Pick Yourself Up” (done slowly, how about that?) to “I Remember,” “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today” and “God Only Knows,” these songs grow out of loves and lives that have been around the block and that are, in some cases, mellower and wiser for it, if not also much sadder.
The musical nakedness afforded by slow tempos and single-instrument accompaniment — though Porter’s expressive, flowing piano is anything but minimal — also makes for a full immersion in the lyrics. You may be surprised to hear just how subtle the narrative of “Alfie” really is, how affecting internal rhyme can be (“token we knew … spoken, we two”), and how “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” is way more than just clever. Chick Corea’s beckoning fantasy, “Sea Journey,” is a welcome surprise, but the two blockbusters are the rara avis “The Bad and the Beautiful,” which gives new meaning to the phrase “hopelessly in love,” and the tear-jerking “One More Look at You,” from “A Star is Born.”
Eastman’s caramel alto, caressing vibrato and muscular but easy accuracy lead her to just the right emotional key for each song. A great after-hours album.
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