Impressive concert recording Eva Cassidy Band

Nightbird‘s release was long overdue. The album contains the complete concert (audio and partly video) that The Eva Cassidy Band gave on 3 January 1996. The group had booked jazz club Blues Alley in Georgetown DC for two consecutive nights to record an album that would put Eva Cassidy definitely on the map. Whoever had heard her singing was hugely impressed, but Cassidy didn’t have a record contract in those days. Her repertoire was much too varied to label her musically. Cassidy’s fellow musicians still believed in her talent, though, and decided to a last desperate effort: to release a live-album on their own. The singer paid the live recording truck and the crew.



Luck wasn’t on their side: immediately after the first night’s performances the group listened eagerly to the tapes. They soon realised that the sound was badly affected by the light dimmers of the jazz club. So the entire recording had been in vain. This was a huge disappointment, not only because they had played very well that evening, but because the pressure for the second night was ratcheted up several notches. Eva didn’t sleep well that night and worse: she developed a cold. When Eva and the other musicians listened to the recordings of the second night to decide the running order of the album said the perfectionistic singer: ‘I don’t like this and I don’t want to release this album.’ They talked for hours and promised her to add some studio recordings to the live concert performances, which would lead to the acceptable and coherent album: Live at Blues Alley. Cassidy reluctantly agreed. That same year Eva Cassidy died of melanoma, largely unknown.

Blues Alley

Blues Alley

In fact Blix Street Records ignores Cassidy’s wishes by releasing of Nightbird. The technique of optimizing recordings has been improved significantly in twenty years. But anyone who listens to these thirty-one tracks on this double-album must conclude that music history was written on 3 January 1996. No weak spots can be discovered on this album! People all over the world have to adjust the idea that they probably had about Eva Cassidy. This music differs hugely from well-known songs that babble on like Fields of Gold and Songbird. The Eva Cassidy Band plays two delicious sets of solid and sparkling songs: a rocking rendition of Take Me To The River, a soulful Chain Of Fools and a steamy Route 66. Even as a jazz band The Eva Cassidy Band does an excellent job performing fine versions of Blue Skies and Caravan. But those who love quiet ballads have plenty to enjoy on Nightbird as well: it is a real surprise for instance to hear a stripped off rendition of Waly Waly. On Eva By Heart the song was decorated with outdated synthesiser-effects, but on Nightbird Lenny Williams accompanies Waly Waly in a beautifully restrained way.

Eva At Blues Alley

Eva At Blues Alley

Since the compilation-album Songbird appeared in 2001 people have been aware of the fact that Eva Cassidy was an extremely talented singer. Nightbird proves that her fellow musicians were also able to perform a complete night at a high level in different genres. It is remarkable that the record company doesn’t say much in their liner notes about Chris Biondo (bassist, producer and friend), Keith Grimes (guitar), Lenny Williams (piano) and Raice McLeod. Behind the scenes the bickering about rights and finances continuous. But don’t let these overshadow the joy about the release of this impressive concert recordings! Anyone who’s into the music of The Eva Cassidy band should listen to and watch Nightbird.

Johan Bakker

Pictures: Larry Melton

2 responses to “Impressive concert recording Eva Cassidy Band”

  1. Chris Arscott says:

    I love the “LIve” versions of songs. I’ve never been keen on “Over Produced ” recordings.
    Eva and a guitar will do for me on the songs that are suitable for that treatment .
    The band are all brilliant and sympathethetic to the music and eva’s voice.
    So gladthis album was released.

  2. Mac Macdonald says:

    She IS the greatest singer in recording history – no signer connects with the listener than Eva,

    I have discussed the value of live recordings in some depth with the band, they want essentially studio quality releases only. The problem is that there is little fresh studio quality material left.

    I have expressed the fact to the band members and said that if Eva was happy to perform live in front of the public it must be in order for the public to hear her where such material is available. Having said this, I do respect how protective Chris and the band members are of Eva’s legacy – but notwithstanding this Eva cannot be allowed to lapse into history, if such material exists.

    regards Mac

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