Thursday, July 26, 2007
It seems incomprehensible that Dominique Eade’s performance on Saturday at the Jazz & Blues Company is her debut gig in Northern California, but it is. Being one of jazz’s most acclaimed and adventurous vocalists isn’t necessarily a passport to fame and fortune.
Even given jazz’s relatively small reach in the musical marketplace, Eade’s low West Coast profile is hard to figure. She’s recorded several acclaimed albums for a major label, and has collaborated with many of the music’s most creative figures, including pianist Fred Hersch, bassist Dave Holland and saxophonist Benny Golson.
She certainly doesn’t lack for recognition. If she wanted to, Eade could redecorate her living room with all the awards she’s won, starting with Entertainment Weekly naming her Best Jazz Singer in an article on up-and-coming artists of 1996. But rave reviews in the New York Times declaring that Eade has “absorbed some of Sarah Vaughan’s fearsome technique” haven’t opened the doors to Yoshi’s, the West Coast’s most prestigious venue.
“I played the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles when my first RCA album came out,” Eade says, referring to When the Wind Was Cool, her ravishing 1997 tribute to June Christy and Chris Connor. “It is weird that I haven’t made it up to the Bay Area. I have family in Marin and Sonoma, and I visit California all the time. I’m hoping this little tour is the start of something.”
One reason that Eade hasn’t made more California inroads is that she’s firmly ensconced in the Boston scene. Shortly after graduating from New England Conservatory in the mid 1980s, the school hired her to found its jazz vocal program, and she’s helped shape many of the most gifted singers to emerge in the past two decades, including Luciana Souza, Roberta Gambarini, Kate McGarry, Patrice Williamson and Julie Hardy.
Drawing on the deep pool of talent in the Boston area, Eade has forged ties with a remarkable collection of artists, from guitarists Mick Goodrick and Bill Frisell to organists John Medeski and Larry Goldings. With her conservatory training she’s comfortable in new music settings, and has often served as muse for cutting edge composers.
For her concert on Saturday, Eade is performing with the young pianist Jed Wilson, an ebullient player with whom she recently released a gorgeous duo album, Open. Like many of her musical connections, she met him through her work at NEC. “I knew of Jed because a lot of my students were playing with him,” Eade says. “My regulars weren’t available for a gig. I’m not even sure why, but I said I think I’ll hire Jed Wilson, and things clicked right away. We had a great rehearsal. He’s such a deep player, with a great sense of humor, a great memory and he loves songs.”
They’ve developed a startlingly effective rapport, and a repertoire that includes overlooked gems from the American Songbook and Eade’s finely crafted originals. Over the years she forged brilliant duos with several players, including pianist Ran Blake, a mentor at NEC, and bassist Mark Helias, but the collaboration with Wilson has taken her in a new direction.
“The structure is the same as those duos, but it’s a conversation, and whoever that other person is makes a radical difference,” Eade says. “Jed and I brainstormed for covers and then the duo really inspired a lot of writing. We have a lot of established repertoire. I like to find unusual songs, and we’ll fold in some new ones for each performance.”
They actually didn’t set out to record Open, but the album emerged over two years. “We went into the studio on a lark, not with a big idea to make an album, but as a way to hear ourselves better and galvanize the duo,” Eade says. “Then when the CD comes out, you can really go further. We’ve definitely gotten into new terrain.”
Dominique Eade and Jed Wilson perform 7:30pm, Saturday, at The Jazz & Blues Company in the Eastwood Building, San Carlos and Fifth Street, Carmel. $40. 624-6432 or thejazzandbluescompany.com.