Jazz pianist/vocalist Brenda Earle was as elegant as the dinner club in which she was performing on May 13th in the University city of Guelph just one hour north west of Toronto Canada. Having interviewed Earle earlier in the year I decided to take advantage of her appearance at Manhattans.
Earle took her seat at the piano just a whisper away from the nearest patrons. The talented young woman who has also made a name for herself as an accomplished composer was joined on this night by sax man Joel Frahm. Earle who was born in Canada but has resided in New York City for several years told her audience, "This time I brought a bit of New York back with me."
A highlight from her nine song first set was the cover of Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over." As Earle cooed, "Now I'm towing my car, there's a hole in the roof/My possessions are causing me suspicion but there's no proof," I thought how fitting a song for a musician who knows the struggle and sacrifice of pursuing your dreams. Earle however is starting to emerge from the shadows and is quickly being recognized as a star on the rise in the Jazz scene. She is looking forward to playing Atlanta's premier Jazz club Churchill Grounds (not to be confused with Kentucky's Churchill Downs) later in the year. She will be doing gigs at two of North Carolina's outstanding Jazz venues, Sullivan's of Charlotte and Speakeasy Jazz in Winston-Salem. Prior to appearing at Manhattans Earle had just come off two packed out concerts at the Rex Hotel Jazz and Blues Bar in Toronto.
During her 2005 tour of New Zealand, Earle often closed her concerts with "Don't Dream It's Over." She told her audience at Manhattans that the Kiwis would salute her tribute to the band from Down Under by holding lighters high above their heads. Her interpretation of the Crowded House song is splendid and ranks up there with Leigh Nash's pop interpretation.
While some artists tend to heavily favor one of either Standards, Bosa Novas or Smooth Jazz Earle seems to transition easily between Standards and more contemporary compositions.
Her fourth song of the night was "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry" from her new release The Happening. She served notice with the melancholy tune that Norah Jones better make room on the charts for her. As Earle lamented Frahm's tenor sax gently wept. Frahm was not a casual throw-in to this concert. The tenorist is considered one of the bright stars on the Jazz scene drawing rave reviews from several Jazz publications as well as being critically acclaimed by the Village Voice and Billboard. The artists he has performed with include; Jane Monheit, Fred Hersch and the late Betty Carter.
Earle dedicated "Someone Else's Eyes" to her father who was in the audience this night. With her foot tapping out the beat and her body bopping to the music Earle demonstrated once again why it is only a matter of time before she is mentioned in the same breath as another of Canada's Jazz divas Diana Krall. Frahm blew some sassy notes on his horn. Every note that emerged from the bell would have made Adolph Sax proud.
Other good tunes on this night included "Like Someone In Love" and "The Waltz." The music for the later was first written by a friend who plays the vibraphone and later Earle approached him about adding lyrics.Brenda Earle is an accomplished composer, plays the piano effortlessly and has soprano/alto vocals that rival just about any of the major Jazz artist charting today. She is also personable and grateful for the opportunities she is presented with. Brenda Earle is a Jazz jewel.