Eva Cassidy: Autumn Leaves
Eva Cassidy (guitar, vocals)
Songbird (Blix Street Records 1045)
Eva Cassidy (guitar, vocals),
Lenny “The Ringer” Williams (piano).
Composed by Joseph Kosma, Jacques Prévert and Johnny Mercer.
Recorded: Blues Alley, Washington, D.C., Jan. 2, 1996
Rating: 97/100 (learn more)
A ballad performance such as this one sounds magical, as if the singer is casting a secret spell of enchantment on the audience. But behind Eva Cassidy's magic is her mastery of the microtonal nuances, the nudges between the notes, the hesitations and anticipations in pitch and rhythm, the continuations and disjunctions in her melodic line . . . in short, the attention to small details that make possible the larger-than-life performance on the stage. The end result sounds natural and unaffected, a straight connectivity between the inner spirit and voice, but this very sense of ease is part of the marvelous construction.
If you didn't listen carefully here, you might be tempted to write off the "Cassidy sensation"—which resulted in the sale of eight million CDs following the singer's death at age 33—as a response to the sad story of the singer's abbreviated life rather than as a measure of her artistry. But don't be mistaken, Cassidy was a huge talent, whose obscurity during her lifetime was almost as much a tragedy as her early death. This song has been sung so often that only a visionary of the highest order could bring back a springtime freshness to these yellowing leaves of fall. Yet listen to Cassidy, her voice and guitar lines locking together in a perfect embrace, and you will think this music had just been created anew on the stage of Blues Alley in this now deservedly famous performance.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia