Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

289

Ellyn Rucker: Live in New Orleans

By

Sign in to view read count
Ellyn Rucker
Live in New Orleans
Leisure Jazz Video
2005

If you're unfamiliar with Denver-based Ellyn Rucker, prepare yourself for a revelation. Line up the best of the current crop of female jazz vocalists, and Ellyn has to be among them. Do the same with pianists. The line thins out, but Ellyn is still there. Now do the same with singer-pianists. She has few if any peers.

You would think that the current popularity of Diana Krall would at least "rub off" on equally deserving pianist/singers such as Ellyn (or Chicago's Judy Roberts or the scintillating Dena DeRose), but it comes down to promotion, and the major labels have never been more cautious about promoting jazz. All the same, the listener who seeks out this admittedly scarce 1992 session will be amply rewarded. Unlike some music videos, the audio track has closeness and presence, along with full-frequency fidelity and carefully balanced sound. Because the filmmakers have made sound the priority, the camera set- ups are never manipulative or intrusive. The shots go where the music takes them (no close-ups of the bassist's face during a piano solo), and cutting is held to a tasteful minimum.

The setting is Lulu White's Mahogany Hall in New Orleans, but the sounds are more reminiscent of Bill Evans' trio than of Bourbon Street jazz. Ellyn initially holds back on the singing, leading off with three strong, extended piano improvisations. On the opening "Beautiful Love" the striking blonde (whom jazz vocalist Mark Murphy once compared to Kim Novak) immediately invokes the spirit of Bill Evans with her song selection, harmonic substitutions and left-hand voicings, and urgent, building right-hand melodic explorations. Percussionist Jill Fredrickson matches the leader's intensity, moving from deft brush work and a two-beat feel to sticks and an explosive, driving 4/4, propelled by crisp traps and flowing ride cymbal (the presence of another woman in the rhythm section made an immediate visual impression on a coed class for whom I recently screened the video). Bassist Mark Singer rounds out the group and is a superb "walker" as well as a full-toned, versatile solo voice.

After a jazz standard (John Carisi's "Israel,") and a little-known blues ("Take the Coltrane," sketched by Ellington for his recording session with John Coltrane), Ellyn complements her piano chops with vocals that are sultry, seductive, and dead on pitch. On "Wonder Why" her voice is like the addition of a horn to the trio, leading to perhaps the most grooving moments of the set. Next, two songs about spring make for a particularly happy pairing: the ballad "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" and Freddie Hubbard's waltz "Up Jumped Spring," the latter featuring Ellyn singing lyrical scat in unison with her melodic piano lines. The set ends with a rollicking, infectious calypso, "Fungi Mamma."

Of the dozens of jazz videos I've used in the classroom, this is one of the most successful—as aesthetically satisfying as it is pedagogically effective. And for those listeners who, like me, had never heard of Ellyn Rucker all these years, getting a good look at her should help fill the void. The poet William Blake had something like that in mind when he wrote, "The eye can see more than the heart can know."

Track listing: 1. "Beautiful Love", 2. "Israel", 3. "Take the Coltrane", 4. "Wonder Why", 5. "Things Ain't What They Used To Be", 6. "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most", 7. "Up Jumped Spring", 8. "Fungi Mamma"

Personnel: Ellyn Rucker, piano and vocals; Mark Singer, bass; Jill Fredrickson, drums

Visit Ellyn Rucker on the web.


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read La La Land DVD/Film Reviews La La Land
by Gareth Thomas
Published: October 17, 2017
Read Jeff Beck: Live at the Hollywood Bowl DVD/Film Reviews Jeff Beck: Live at the Hollywood Bowl
by Doug Collette
Published: October 7, 2017
Read Rolling Stones From The Vault: Sticky Fingers Live at the Fonda Theatre 2015 DVD/Film Reviews Rolling Stones From The Vault: Sticky Fingers Live at the...
by Doug Collette
Published: September 30, 2017
Read Frank Sinatra: Portrait Of An Album | Sinatra Sings DVD/Film Reviews Frank Sinatra: Portrait Of An Album | Sinatra Sings
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: September 27, 2017
Read Frank Sinatra: Live From Caesar’s Palace | The First 40 Years DVD/Film Reviews Frank Sinatra: Live From Caesar’s Palace | The First...
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: September 27, 2017
Read Frank Sinatra: The Royal Festival Hall (1962) | Live At Carnegie Hall DVD/Film Reviews Frank Sinatra: The Royal Festival Hall (1962) | Live At...
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: September 27, 2017
Read "Rolling Stones From The Vault: Sticky Fingers Live at the Fonda Theatre 2015" DVD/Film Reviews Rolling Stones From The Vault: Sticky Fingers Live at the...
by Doug Collette
Published: September 30, 2017
Read "I Called Him Morgan at Belfast Film Festival 2017" DVD/Film Reviews I Called Him Morgan at Belfast Film Festival 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 4, 2017
Read "The Who At The Isle of Wight Festival 2004" DVD/Film Reviews The Who At The Isle of Wight Festival 2004
by Doug Collette
Published: June 3, 2017
Read "La La Land" DVD/Film Reviews La La Land
by Gareth Thomas
Published: October 17, 2017
Read "Frank Sinatra: Live From Caesar’s Palace | The First 40 Years" DVD/Film Reviews Frank Sinatra: Live From Caesar’s Palace | The First...
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: September 27, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!