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The late singer/guitarist Eva Cassidy (1963-1996) was a possibility nature did not allow fulfilled. Barely started in what promised to be a successful career, Cassidy died at 33 from malignant melanoma, the same year her notable Live at Blues Alley (Eva Music) was recorded and released. The present Nightbird is the expansion and 20th Anniversary celebration of a life ended too soon and a recording promising so much. Recorded January 3, 1996, Cassidy would be gone by November...a streak of light across the night sky.
A child of the late Baby Boom, Cassidy had the advantage of musically literate parents who exposed her to a broad array of music. Rather than occupy herself with listening to the standard white-bread music on AM radio, she concentrated on Southern soul, jazz, blues, and R&B. She assimilated these genre seamlessly emerging, fully formed, on the stage of Georgetown's Blues Alley. Cassidy's performance was dizzying in scope. Heading up a durable quartet, Cassidy made her way across the whole of 20th Century American Music.
Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" is a fitting place to begin a show, an early Tin Pan Alley song updated by a sensitive and perceptive Cassidy. The same can be said for her other hard ballad performances: the early "Autumn Leaves," " Wonderful World" and Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" and Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time." Cassidy completely renewed Harburg and Arlen's "Over the Rainbow," making an already iconic song a quiet lightning bolt. Her performance of Sting's "Field of Gold" is equally provocative.
Nightbird reveals a modern song stylist not unlike Frank Sinatra. Cassidy's interpretative skills had few, if any, peers. She was equally at home with the Box Tops ("The Letter") and Bobby Troup ("Route 66"); Peggy Lee ("Fever") and Aretha Franklin ("Chain of Fools"). Her repertoire outside of the jazz standards and blues lay easily in the memory of anyone coming of age in the 1980s and '90s. Nightbird is a singular event to be savored and a talent too great to have experienced for such a short time.
Track Listing: CD1: Blue Skies; Ain't Doin Too Bad; Ain't No Sunshine; Fields of
Gold; Baby I Love You; Honeysuckle Rose; Route 66; Bridge Over
Troubled Water; Band intro; Chain Of Fools; Fever; Autumn Leaves;
Fine And Mellow; Cheek To Cheek; Don't Mean A Thing; Late In The
Evening; Next Time You See Me; Waly Waly. CD2: Take Me To The
River; Nightbird; People Get Ready; The Letter; Son Of A Preacher
Man; Stormy Monday; Tall Trees In Georgia; Something's Got A Hold
Of Me; Time After Time; Somewhere Over The Rainbow; Welcome To The
Club; Caravan; You've Changed; Wonderful World; Oh Had I A Golden
Personnel: Eva Cassidy: vocals, acoustic and electric guitars; Chris Biondo:
bass guitar; Keith Grimes: electric guitar; Raice McLeod: drums;
Lenny “The Ringer” Williams: piano; Hilton Felton: Hammond organ on
‘Oh Had I a Golden Thread’.
I love jazz because of its ability to evoke such tremendous emotion... primarily joy!
I was first exposed to jazz by my grandparents.
The first jazz record I bought was Jim Beard's Song of the Sun or maybe Steely Dan's Aja.
My advice to new listeners: remain varied in your listening habits, and of course keep listening, keep listening, keep listening!
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