The beauty of vocalist Madeline Eastman is that she is an undaunted improviser who remains conservative
in her improvising. In this context, the word conservative
harbors no negative connotations. Eastman has an abiding respect for the melody that is reflected in her thoughtful interpretations of the fourteen ballads making up A Quiet Thing
. The piano-voice format also reflects this careful conservative approach to the material.
The repertoire for this recording is what is truly provocative. Reading the subtitle, A Collection of Ballads,
brings to mind any number of assemblies of tired standards belonging in writer Scott Yanow's "Songs That Should Be Avoided," from his book The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide
(Backbeat, 2008). But Eastman completely sidesteps the issue by choosing ballads off the beaten path. "Alfie," "Pick Yourself Up" and "Spring Can Really Hang You Up" are what pass for well-worn standards, and all are treated impeccably by Eastman and pianist Randy Porter
, both of whom deliver tastefully and with grace.
Eastman's voice is beautifully well-balanced, confident and in control. Porter's pianism is understated and subtle, even in his solos. Both artists shine on a well-considered cover of Randy Newman
's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today." In the duo's voice and hands, Newman's piece takes on a firm pastoral grace. Brian Wilson's "God Only Knows" closes the disc in an abbreviate performance where Eastman shows the song's brilliant melody, slowed down and not over-sung. Sweet are the fruits of this collaboration, rewarding in every way.