January 3rd 1996: The Eva Cassidy Band Live At Blues Alley

The late singer/guitarist Eva Cassidy (1963-1996) was a possibility nature did not allow fulfilled. Barely started in what promised to be a successful career, Cassidy died at 33 from malignant melanoma, the same year her notable Live at Blues Alley (Eva Music) was recorded and released. The present Nightbird is the expansion and 20th Anniversary celebration of a life ended too soon and a recording promising so much. Recorded January 3, 1996, Cassidy would be gone by November…a streak of light across the night sky.

Eva At Blues Alley

Eva At Blues Alley

A child of the late Baby Boom, Cassidy had the advantage of musically literate parents who exposed her to a broad array of music. Rather than occupy herself with listening to the standard white-bread music on AM radio, she concentrated on Southern soul, jazz, blues, and R&B. She assimilated these genre seamlessly emerging, fully formed, on the stage of Georgetown’s Blues Alley. Cassidy’s performance was dizzying in scope. Heading up a durable quartet, Cassidy made her way across the whole of 20th Century American Music.

Keith Grimes

Keith Grimes

Irving Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’ is a fitting place to begin a show, an early Tin Pan Alley song updated by a sensitive and perceptive Cassidy. The same can be said for her other hard ballad performances: the early ‘Autumn Leaves,’ ‘Wonderful World’ and Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’ and Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time.’ Cassidy completely renewed Harburg and Arlen’s ‘Over the Rainbow,’ making an already iconic song a quiet lightning bolt. Her performance of Sting’s ‘Field of Gold’ is equally provocative.

Eva Cassidy Band

Eva Cassidy Band

Nightbird reveals a modern song stylist not unlike Frank Sinatra. Cassidy’s interpretative skills had few, if any, peers. She was equally at home with the Box Tops (‘The Letter’) and Bobby Troup (‘Route 66’); Peggy Lee (‘Fever’) and Aretha Franklin (‘Chain of Fools’). Nightbird is a singular event to be savored and a talent too great to have experienced for such a short time.

C. Michael Bailey (All About Jazz)

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