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Danielle Eva emerges a fully formed jazz vocalist on her debut, Road and Moon (Devour Music, 2010). She has assimilated the influences of the finest jazz vocal talent of the last 20 years: Cassandra Wilson, Cheryl Bentyne, Tierney Sutton, Karrin Allyson, and nominally, Norah Jones. Drawing equally from Wilson's organic approach, Allyson's timbre-perfect pitch, and Jones' country sensibility, Eva crafts a diverse collection of songs that densely demonstrate her elastic and adaptable talent. Rarely have artists like Joni Mitchell ("Both Sides Now"), Freddie Hubbard ("Little Sunflower") and Laura Nyro ("And When I Die") coexisted so peacefully in the same sonic space.
Road and Moon sports several fine pieces, but Eva's treatment of the traditional "He's Gone Away," melded with Ann Ronell's "Willow Weep For Me," demonstrates the creative evolution, from Cassandra Wilson's earthy approach in the 1990s to Laurie Antonioli's embrace of Americana on American Dreams (Intrinsic Music, 2010), as informed by the Western Swing inclinations of Lawrence Lebo and Retta Christie. Eva sings "He's Gone Away" a capella, revealing a soulful voice years beyond her youth. She affects just enough Southern slur to complement the song's rustic origin.
"He's Gone Away" dissolves into a wooden "Willow Weep for Me," buffeted by Chuck Underwood's acoustic and slide guitars, Gavin Fallow's upright bass and Bob Spate's fiddle. This 1932 pop song becomes a gentle Western ballad by instrumentation and vocal approach. Eva transfers the literal longing of "He's Gone Away" into the metaphorical plight of the weeping willow. Underwood's slide accompaniment and Spate's fiddle solo add to the piece's authenticity. This voice is a new and potent force set to turn jazz vocals on its ear.