Personnel: Erin Bode (vocals); Adam Rogers (acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Meg Okura (violin); Sydney Rodway (tenor saxophone); Bruce Barth (piano, Fender Rhodes piano); Adam Maness (piano); Steve Nelson (vibraphone); Larry Grenadier (bass instrument); Montez Coleman (drums); Jerry Barnes (background vocals).
Erin Bode's national recording debut for Maxjazz is an impressive affair. The young singer, who is gifted with a sweet and clear voice, wanted to cover her favorite songs, so here she delves into rock, bluegrass, pop ballads, R&B, and standards from the Great American Songbook, and is backed by a very supportive rhythm section consisting of pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Larry Grenadier, and drummer Montez Coleman. Most of the first five tracks are eye-openers. She confidently opens the CD with a country-flavored original, "Don't Take Your Time," co-written and jointly arranged with Adam Maness, who also plays piano on this track (a bonus CD-Rom video track of a live studio performance of "Don't Take Your Time" is also included). The Beatles' "Here, There and Everywhere" has been performed in a jazz setting before, but Bode is one of a just a few jazz singers to record it, and Barth's imaginative arrangement is a great improvement over the typically overblown charts used elsewhere. She then switches gears to tackle Bill Monroe's mournful bluegrass ballad "In the Pines," multi-tracking a backing vocal in spots, and adding Adam Rogers' delicious acoustic slide guitar and Meg Okura's gritty violin. Rogers is also on-hand for Bode's funky take of Bob Dylan's "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You." However, her performance of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" sticks a little too close to the pop world, especially with the harmony vocals of Jerry Barnes. Hardcore jazz fans will likely gravitate toward the standards, as that's where she is at her best. Her lightly swinging take of "But Not for Me" features Grenadier's unusual bassline and the inventive Steve Nelson on vibes. She captures the essence of Matt Dennis' sentimental ballad "Junior and Julie," while she displays the skills of an actress in the show tune "I've Never Been in Love Before." Barth's bluesy piano provides the perfect setting for her playful interpretation of "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You." Eclectic as Erin Bode's taste in music is, her ability to effectively integrate such a diverse range of songs into a single release should be highly commended; she is very deserving of nationwide exposure. ~ Ken Dryden