What’s On Your Playlist: Dominique Eade

December 3, 2014

dominiqueDominique Eade has been on the faculty of New England Conservatory since 1984, where she teaches voice, composition, and improvisation. The list of Eade’s accomplished students is impressive and continues to grow. In the 1994 Thelonious Monk Jazz Vocal Competition, three of the eleven finalists, including the winner, Sara Lazarus, were Eade’s students. The 1998 third-place winner, Roberta Gambarini, also studied with Eade. In the 2004 competition, her students Rachael Price (Lake Street Dive) and Jo Lawry (Sting) were both finalists. In the 2010 Thelonious Monk Competition, Richard Saunders placed as a finalist.

Other outstanding students include: Grammy-nominated artists Luciana Souza and Sarah Jarosz; Berklee faculty members Lisa Thorson, Patrice Williamson, Kris Adams and Aubrey Johnson; Julie Hardy, Sara Serpa, Aoife O’Donovan (Crooked Still, Goat Rodeo, Dave Douglas), Heather Masse (Prairie Home Companion and Wailin’’ Jennies), Amy Cervini, Sara Leib, Sunny Kim, Rebecca Shrimpton (Jazz Composers Alliance), classical soprano Elizabeth Keusch, Sofia Rei Koutsovitis, and Michael Mayo (The Monk Institute). Dominique Eade is the recipient of the 2006 Outstanding Alumni Award.

“An impossibly versatile vocalist, composer, lyricist and instrumental arranger” (David Hajdu, The New York Times Magazine), Eade has recorded six albums as a leader (two of them for RCA Victor) featuring such notable musicians as Dave Holland, Victor Lewis, Fred Hersch, Bruce Barth, Benny Golson, Ran Blake, Donald Brown, and George Mraz.

1. Soledad BravaChants du Venezuela

I have a student to thank for making me aware of this 1992 recording by the great Venezuelan singer. Here she is singing mostly traditional pieces, but the impressionistic harmony of Antonio Estevez’s “Tonadas De Ordeño” is a standout. The range of vocal color and dynamics applied within a single phrase is breathtaking. Her incredible vocal control and knowledge of the folkloric forms and rhythms are all in the service of a deeply passionate delivery.

2. Ran Blake and Jeanne Lee (unreleased)

Sometime last year, Ran Blake wrote to Jason Moran and me to ask if we would like to write liner notes for a set of newly discovered recordings with Jeanne Lee. As Jason and I listened, we exchanged emails of disbelief. How could this music, recorded at the time of their classic recording, the Newest Sound Around, exist without anyone knowing about it until now? I regret to inform the reader that the release has been delayed indefinitely due to legal issues, but I am hopeful this brilliant recording, on which they cover everything from “Green Dolphin Street” to “A Hard Day’s Night,” will find its listeners sooner or later. Until then, you can find a performance from this period (“Something’s Coming”) on YouTube and catch a glimpse of these kindred spirits in action.

3. Mohammad Reza Shajarian, Mohammad Reza LoftiThe Abu-Ata Concert

These two masters of Persian Music (voice and tar) performed this concert in 1981 during a time of great unrest in Iran. Lofti had been arrested during a protest at Tehran University where he was on faculty, and was released an hour after the concert was set to begin. The ten-minute improvised Pishdaramad, or prelude, which begins the performance, transforms into a profound treatise on the fight against oppression. The text is a Hafez poem, and with anger and tenderness the tar and voice are locked in a heart-felt exchange. 

4. Aretha FranklinYoung, Gifted and Black

Aretha recorded quite a few actual jazz standards, but the first few phrases of her own “First Snow in Kokomo” on this album represents some of her most intimate and gorgeous jazz singing on record (please don’t ask me to define that!). I love the other originals, too, “Rock Steady “ for its unapologetic groove, the psychedelic-tinged “Daydreaming,” and the 6/8 -up ballad “All the Kings Horses.” Though some might take issue with the turn toward pop on this CD, some of the arranging, or other idiosyncrasies in the writing, I think this album communicates something very personal. Just the title track alone, a Nina Simone cover, lets you know she intends to make a statement, a different side of a soul very much intact. Also present is a who’s who of sidemen including Donny Hathaway, Bernard Purdie, and Hubert Laws.

5. Leila PinheiroCatavento e Girassol

Leila Pinheiro is a Brazilian vocalist who is quite well known in her home country, but less so here. She sings in the style of the immortal Elis Regina, and Luciana Souza tells me that she also plays great bossa nova guitar. The repertoire for this CD is all compositions by the songwriter’s songwriter, and virtuoso guitarist Guinga, and it’s in this role as interpreter of his music that she really shines. Their breakneck “O Côco do Côco” is a showstopper and a contrast to some of the sumptuous ballads. The CD also features excellent arrangements and superb accompanying musicians.

6. Jay ClaytonPeace of Wild Things

Jay Clayton can travel seamlessly between the worlds of standards, as on her recent CD of Harry Warren songs, Harry Who?, and free improvisation, most notably with pianist Muhal Richard Abrams. On this CD, recorded in 2008, she is somewhere between these two worlds, singing solo with electronics but focusing on poetry by e. e. cummings, Lara Pellegrinelli, Wendell Berry, and Jeanne Lee (to whom, along with the great Sheila Jordan, the CD is dedicated). Her own, “Sometimes,” captures the nature of the entire CD where whimsical curiosity gives way to the contemplation of life’s more profound questions. She is an astute, musically gifted, and compassionate guide throughout the journey.

7. Miles OkazakiGenerations

I had heard a lot about Miles’ music before I actually heard it, mostly about the mathematical complexities and the meticulous musicianship needed to play his compositions, so I decided to take it in on visceral level at first without trying to figure out what was going on. This worked out well because the entire CD is recorded in one take, like a concert. The music is very inviting, and, if you do want to see the score to investigate further, Miles has made it and the liner notes available online. Jen Shyu’s wordless melodic singing and lyrical soloing are beautiful and provide a fluid bridge between the three altos and rhythm section. I look forward to hearing more of her work, and his. I am sometimes lucky enough to hear Miguel Zenón’s inspiring sound emanating from a practice room at NEC and I enjoy his work wherever I hear him.

8. Carmen McRae20th Century Masters

The album Bittersweet, recorded after her Decca years, is the go-to Carmen album and one I always have on hand. In fact, I was just correcting a student’s chordal transcription of her version of “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry,” and was reminded, among other things, of the graceful work between guitarist Mundell Lowe and pianist Norman Simmons that Bittersweet features. But I have been enjoying this collection of Decca tracks lately, with Billy Strayhorn himself on piano on an impeccable rendition of his “Something to Live For,” and Carmen’s very swinging second chorus of “I Only Have Eyes for You.” As Carmen herself said in David Ritz’s excellent liner notes, “…for whatever you can say about record companies, sometimes they put you in the right place with the right people.”

9. Ray CharlesModern Sounds in Country and Western

This remarkable crossover record from 1961 is an all-time favorite and usually finds its way to my CD player in the fall when school begins for one reason or another. The groove on “Makes No Difference Now,” and his tear-filled singing of “Lucky Old Sun” (which must have been a big influence on Randy Newman) are worth the price of admission.

10. Lee HylaWilson’s Ivory-bill

This CD features the title piece and three others from great American contemporary classical composer and former colleague, Lee Hyla. Lee often wrote for specific musicians, and Wilsons’s Ivory-bill is no exception. Written for baritone Mark Sweeney and pianist Judith Gordon, the lyric is taken from Alexander Wilson’s American Ornithology, chronicling Wilson’s tragic encounter with an ivory-billed woodpecker. The third voice in this piece is the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s recording of the woodpecker itself. This is a luminous and haunting composition beautifully played and sung.

Dominique Eade’s latest album, Whirlpool (CD Baby), was a collaboration with pianist Ran Blake and was released in October 2011. www.dominiqueeade.com

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