“The beauty of her tone makes Eva Cassidy’s singing so honest.”

The documentary One Night That Changed Everything begins powerful with the words of manager Al Dale: “Give a Blues Alley welcome to Eva Cassidy!” The former band members of the American singer, who died in 1996, enter the famous jazz club in Georgetown DC two by two. The 50-minute documentary is as simple as it is effective. Pianist Lenny Williams, drummer Raice McLeod, guitarist Keith Grimes and bassist Chris Biondo look back at the images of their legendary performance (January 3, 1996) from the front row at Blues Alley on a big screen. The reason that the original film footage is black and white is that Brian McCulley’s camera was not of high quality. The colours of the night-time cafe setting barely became visable. McCulley did not have a steady hand in filming either, the fact that these shots have stood the test of time is because they are the only images. It is typical of this band, that they were focused on the quality of the music only and that their presentation was subordinate. Not even a single photograph shows all the members of the Eva Cassidy band.

The former band members

The former band members

The four musicians also talk individually about Eva in this documentary. “I wouldn’t call her shy,” explains Raice McCleod, “rather introverted.”  “She was stubborn,” says Lenny Williams, “but in a good way.” “People were not smart enough to see what she was all about,” Chris Biondo adds. The bandmembers tried to support Eva as much as possible. Lenny Williams had a huge affinity with the jazz standards she liked to sing, Raice McLeod played so subtly that Eva didn’t have to force her voice, Keith Grimes complemented her guitar playing perfectly and musical mentor Chris Biondo kept an eye on the big picture of their performances.

The music still sounds perfect. Even after 25 years, The Eva Cassidy Band sends chivers down the spines of the viewers with their exciting renditions of ‘Stormy Monday’, ‘Honeysuckle Rose’ and ‘Take Me To The River’. Biondo, Grimes, Williams and McLeod unanimously agree that Eva had grown enormously as a musician in the seven years that they played together. They try to imagine how good she would have been now. “Eva Cassidy had just started to write her own songs, I would have loved to hear how she would have developed in that area,” adds Raice McLeod.

Eva At Blues Alley

Eva At Blues Alley

It is wonderful to see how the four men are moved by Eva Cassidy’s images. Lenny Williams confesses that he hardly dared to play along on ‘Autumn Leaves’: “It’s like drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa”. Keith Grimes, who encouraged Eva to play the guitar in the band says about her rendition of ‘Autumn Leaves’: “This is my favourite, because of the creation of mood that takes place. The beauty of her tone makes her singing so honest. It’s a song about natural elements which were such a big thing in her life.” They let Eva play ‘Time After Time’ by herself. “Eva was such a strong light that we had to back off. Let it shine when it needs to shine,” says Lenny Williams about Eva’s chillingly beautiful solo version of the Cyndi Lauper classic. “Her gift was to strip away all the unnecessary stuff and drilling down a song to get to its essence.”

Happy Eva

Happy Eva

A few years ago Attracta McLaughlin made Timeless Voice in which Mick Fleetwood said beautiful things about Eva Cassidy. However, that documentary was marred by record label bosses who thought themselves more interesting than the singer. The members of the Eva Cassidy band have so far been kept out of the picture. They had to wait 25 years for this recognition. Eva Cassidy would have loved to see that they are now finally in the spotlight themselves!

One Night That Changed Everything – music documentary –

Attracta McLaughlin – Blix Street Records 2021

 

2 responses to ““The beauty of her tone makes Eva Cassidy’s singing so honest.””

  1. John N. Bradsher says:

    Her music is simultaneously transcendent, captivating and spellbinding. Unlike anything I’ve ever heard before.

  2. Ron G says:

    The more songs I hear her sing the more I want to hear. I can understand why see is missed by so many.

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