Last week I had the opportunity to hear the Eleonor England Trio play a pretty dead show at the Elbo Room in San Francisco's Mission Neighborhood. Man. I wasn't sure if it was jazz or a standup routine. One minute they were playing beautifully orchestrated standards with soaring vocals and the next minute the vocalist was improvising lyrics about the surrounding Mission Neighborhood and people were rolling around clutching their sides with laughter. One of the many highlights was when the band started talking to each other on cell phones during the first set.
Normally when you think of people with a schtick like this, you think of people whose playing isn't strong and they rely on other elements to hold the project together. But this group breaks that rule. The keys player is Eddy Sambuaga who is just a fine player. I hear a lot of blues influence in his solos as well as Thelonious Monk - he is excellent technically and artistically. The bass player is Steve Fowler, debuting with that group that night although he looks to be 30 year senior to Eddy and Eleonor. Steve had a profound sense of rhythm that really holds this drummerless project together. Eleonor has what I would classify as a world class voice - beautiful tone, expansive range, and amazing flexibility - as well as a never-ending supply of ever-changing and infinitely funny lyrics.