Eckert_span3
01/19/10

Rosana Eckert
Small Hotel
Gem

Six years have elapsed since Rosana Eckert released her ensemble debut, At the End of the Day. Seems like an eternity if you can't get enough of her unique talent. Finally the second chapter has been issued in the journey of self-discovery by the multi-faceted singer, pianist, French hornist, composer, arranger and currently teacher of vocal jazz at her alma mater, University of North Texas.

What makes her talent unique is the instrumental quality of her own vocal jazz. Simply put, she adds another horn to any combo she sings with. She can improvise with complete confidence: she can hear changes; has unerring pitch; a thin, flexible vibrato; a sure sense of time and phrasing; and an enviable range. Regarding the latter, her low tones are warm and soothing and I wish she'd explore them more often. Check her original, "Moon and Stars," with another special guest, Marvin Stamm. When his flugel-sounding trumpet blends with Eckert's wordless soaring, their timbres tend to coincide, leading to a haunting fadeout.

Talk about haunting, Eckert's wordless vocalizing on Harold Land's gorgeous "Rapture" finds her virtually disappearing into the tenor of Chris McGuire. It sounds like a two-horn sax section. Great mood-setting by bassist John Adams. For a tasteful sense of musical humor, try another original, "Lady Lee," written with her husband, Gary Eckert, and given a nice lift from clarinetist Chris McGuire. Hubby Gary also provides an unusual lift on Cole Porter's "So In Love," furnishing the only backing for Rosana: McFerrin-like vocal and percussive accompaniment.

For the title tune, it's Rosanna all alone at her keyboard. How she can sing her own arrangement, which is totally re-harmonized, takes remarkable focus. Another attribute, which Marvin Stamm points out in his liner essay, is her ability to avoid conventional scat. She avoids its harshness by relying mainly on the sounds of b, d, w, and lots of vowels, connecting them with smooth voice.

In other words, it's not hard scat, it's soft skitten.

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