Born: June 27, 1954 Primary Instrument: Vocal
DOWNBEAT MAGAZINE: Twice voted one of the Top Female Jazz Vocalists
DOWNBEAT INTERNATIONAL CRITICS POLL: Voted Talent Deserving Wider Recognition
A fearless improviser who seeks out equally intrepid collaborators, San Francisco jazz singer Madeline Eastman strips a lyric bare to reveal unspoken secrets and unanticipated meanings. With the intensity of a torch singer and the chops of a post-bop saxophonist, she’s forged a singular approach unlike any other vocalist on the scene, in what the Los Angeles Times describes as “a consummate, inventive, endlessly entertaining artist at work…a prime example of what jazz singing in the 21st century can be.” Her new collection of ballads, A Quiet Thing, a ravishing duo album with pianist Randy Porter, captures an artist rising to new heights, offering a master class in the art of improvisational storytelling. Eastman possesses an uncanny gift for communicating emotional insights with sophisticated, truthful phrasing that mainlines straight to the heart. She combines an alluringly lustrous sound with an in-the-moment ethos that turns every song into an uncharted journey prompting JazzTimes Magazine to describe her as “an inveterately unpredictable traveler who never fails to take us to magical places.” Exploring a delightfully diverse array of material, including haunting movie themes, unaccountably overlooked standards, and transformative interpretations of Sondheim, the Beach Boys, Chick Corea, Randy Newman, Alec Wilder, and Laura Nyro, A Quiet Thing captures Eastman’s startlingly intimate musical partnership with Porter. It’s a high-wire collaboration between equally fearless improvisers who treat songs less as launching pads than as living texts ripe for reinvention.
Eastman’s confidence stems from a lifetime devoted to jazz. Born in San Francisco, Eastman became enamored with the music at 18, first fascinated by Billie Holiday. She spent the next decade tracking down a series of pianistic mentors, working extensively with Bay Area jazz stalwarts Flip Nunez, Smith Dobson and Paul Poyten. She listened deeply to Miles Davis, particularly his mid-'60s quintet. Among vocalists, her prime inspiration is Carmen McRae, one of jazz's most incisive lyric interpreters. “There's the holy trinity – Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae – and for me, Carmen was it. Her singing was so truthful and it landed right in my heart,” Eastman says.
Inspired by jazz vocal legend Betty Carter’s Bet-Car Records, Eastman and fellow Bay Area jazz singer Kitty Margolis launched their own record label, Mad-Kat Records in the late 1980s, a time when only a handful of jazz artists were producing themselves. She made an international splash with her 1990 debut “Point of Departure,” featuring trumpet great Tom Harrell. She quickly followed up with 1991’s “Mad About Madeline,” an even more impressive session with pianist Cedar Walton, altoist Phil Woods and special guest Mark Murphy. But it was her third release, 1995’s “Art Attack” that fully unleashed Eastman’s creativity. The album features a bevy of cutting edge artists, including pianist Kenny Barron, Turtle Island String Quartet and Tony Williams, whose dynamic, churning drum work sparked a creative epiphany.
“It was so exciting for me,” Eastman recalls. “Our very first take in the studio was ‘Gypsy In My Soul’. The band didn’t hold back because I was a singer. I finally felt like I was one of the cats. It was what I’d been looking for my whole musical life, musicians who wouldn’t coddle me, but would expect me blow. My eyes filled with tears. It was a musical turning point for me, and from that record on I had a more developed and individual concept. I found my authority, my voice. ”
Eastman’s snowballing musical maturity is evident on her first duo album, 2001’s “Bare,” another collection of stunning ballads with the late great Los Angeles pianist Tom Garvin, a highly sought after pianist who also put in significant stints with Carman McRae, Peggy Lee, Lou Rawls and Diane Schuur. Eastman first met Randy Porter about a decade ago when they were both working at the Reno Jazz Festival. “There was an instant chemistry,” she says. They started working together and first documented their collaboration on 2009’s critically hailed “The Speed of Life” with the superlative rhythm section of bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Akira Tana. Next was Randy and Mad’s only live recording, “Can You Hear Me Now?” with a rhythm section that included Matt Wilson. Stereophile Magazine describes Eastman as “hitting from beginning to end, sizzling and snapping with electricity, sliding across bar lines, scatting choruses, slowing to a whisper, bending melody line to her will. She is IN CHARGE.”
For over 20 years, Madeline Eastman has been steadily and consistently raising the bar for what modern jazz singing can be. And it’s on full display on A Quiet Thing. Like any great work, A Quiet Thing bears repeated listening for its freshness, intensity and honesty. Madeline Eastman should be a household name for anyone who is interested in true vocal artistry. This CD will help make that so.
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Awards:Voted: One of the “Top Female Vocalists”
Downbeat Magazine Critic's Poll
One of the “Top Female Vocalists”
Downbeat Magazine Reader’s Poll
STEREOPHILE MAGAZINE She’s hitting from beginning to end, sizzling and snapping with electricity, sliding across bar lines, scatting choruses, slowing to a whisper, bending melody line to her will. She is IN CHARGE.
LA TIMES A prime example of what jazz singing in the 21st century can be.
JazzTimes Magazine Eastman follows a delightfully twisted path. She's an inveterately unpredictable traveler who never fails to take us to magical places.
CD REVIEW Eastman doesn’t tinker aimlessly, she recon¬structs with purpose. She lays depth charges right from her opening.
CHICAGO READER Eastman’s great contribution lies in the tough, contemporary edge she brings to her music. She sings for adults; she even makes you glad to be one.
THE TRIBUNE Eastman is poised, fresh, arresting and electric. She has made her mark. Her show was drenched with a contemporary feel.
THE EXAMINER Her new disc is a stunning display of East¬man’s ever developing vocal style. It also documents her emergence as a significant singer.
BOSTON HEARALD Madeline Eastman has joined a very exclu¬sive club: modern jazz vocalists with something fresh to say about delivering a lyric. She’s hip without pretension, cool without alienation, she has wit and warmth, a rare jazz gift.
CD REVIEW There are degrees of coolness, and Madeline Eastman is the nth. She is overwhelmingly cool as a Lambo¬rghini Diablo is cool, or as Jean-Paul Sartre is cool. Her voice is the driest of ice-cold martinis that cuts clean through your cognitive awareness and warms your body all the way down.
The GLASGOW HERALD Eastman’s horn-like improvising, ef¬fortlessly combined seat-edge adventure with that crucial element for a singer....believability.
JAZZIZ Madeline Eastman’s star is on the rise. Eastman’s growing success in the overpopulated realm of jazz singers comes from her relentless commitment to her art.
SWING JOURNAL, JAPAN Brilliant expressive voice...she is the real thing. Ranks higher than all the new vocalists that have come on the scene in many years.
JAZZ JOURNAL She has arrived with the full palette of at¬tributes: the emotional thermodynamics and distinctive¬ness of a first class jazz instrumentalist, unerring intona¬tion, fertile imagination and the innate capacity to swing without abatement.
CITY PAPER, WASHINGTON DC Even if the field of jazz vocalists was not cluttered, Eastman’s willingness to take artistic risks would still be worthy of notice.
KANSAS CITY STAR She’s part of a refreshing new wave of jazz singers, her sound is immediate and engaging, respectful of tradition, with new, daring approaches
SF WEEKLY An exceptional singer...crisp and polished singing, graceful phrasing a captivating listen. Eastman brilliantly explores the melodic potential of classic standards
SACRAMENTO NEWS & REVIEW Eastman has mastered the art of letting her voice breathlessly envelop a song, transfiguring pain into something of exquisite beauty.
JAZZ EDUCATION JOURNAL l If you’re aching for singing with near bottomless depth, this is it!”
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH If anyone deserved to earn a Ph.D. in vocal gymnastics it is Madeline Eastman.
ST. LOUIS RIVERFRONT TIMES This woman possesses all the tools needed to make an impact on the contemporary jazz scene.
UTNE READER Her most adventurous effort to date, artful but never arty and brimming with energy.
SF BAY GUARDIAN Her up tempo phrasing is impeccable, her melodic choices against complex harmonies are intelligent, and her slow balladry is warm and sincere...Eastman succeeds in making it her own completely!
SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL Eastman is intense. Candlestick Park would have been a better venue for her power. She held back lest the crowd be blown into the parking lot!
SF EXAMINER ...she’s is a gem, a jewel. Mostly because she is so natural, so involved with her songs, so intent on delivering them just right, so inherently musical, that all the fussing around in which most singers become involved just doesn’t occur to her.
SF CHRONICLE Eastman is an intuitive jazz singer, combining the rhythm, phrasing, attack, inflections and improvisations of a musician with a vocalist’s feeling for lyrics and a velvety warm, from-the-diaphragm voice.
A Quiet Thing
Can You Hear Me Now?
Tracks: Make Someone Happy; Show Me; Pent Up House; Slow Boat To China; Don’t Look Back; BaublesBanglesBeads.mp3" name="7. Baubles, Bangles, Beads; Gone With The Wind; Haunted Heart; I Love You; Epistrophy.
Personnel: Randy Porter: piano; Rufus Reid: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.
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