On You Hit The Spot, Chicago singer Tracye Eileen returns to her straight-ahead jazz roots on an album of standards. This is Eileen’s fourth release and third full-length album. Always exploring new ways to express herself, each of her previous recordings covered different genres and stylistic approaches. Eileen is a regular on the Chicago jazz scene and has enjoyed a 6-year residency at Buddy Guy’s Legends, the famous Chicago blues and jazz club, where she has opened for many of the biggest names in the music business.
On You Hit The Spot, Eileen is joined by two different bands made up of some of the top jazz artists Chicago has to offer. Her trio appears on five cuts that were recorded live at Piano Forte, the performance space, recording studio, and piano shop. She also brought on board Thomas Gunther to arrange and produce an additional three studio tracks that feature her six-piece band. The songs chosen for this album have been performed and recorded over the years by many wonderful artists, but Tracye Eileen aims to bring her own perspective and delivery style to play.
On the first listen through of this album it is apparent that the sound is firmly rooted in the 1950s classic jazz era. Each track is a standards cover leaving the spotlight being thrown on to the arrangements and vocal styling and, by and large, both hold up well. Three of the eight tracks that make up You Hit The Spot feature the sextet behind Tracye Eileen: ‘I Love Being Here With You’, ‘You Hit the Spot’, and ‘The End of a Love Affair’.
The first of the three gives the listener a good example of what this album is all about. ‘I Love Being Here With You’ is a brisk, swinging number with good horn and sax lines driven by the crisp drumming of Jon Deitemyer. ‘You Hit The Spot’ continues the opener’s styling with Tracye’s vocals being emphasized by the horn section in that classic jazz era big band way – Victor Garcia plays some wonderful jazz trumpet here. ‘The End of a Love Affair’ is a slower number that gives the listener an opportunity to hear a different side to Eileen’s vocal delivery, a tremulous sound that builds to a big cabaret style style ending before the tune fades away to nothing.
Jeremy Kahn’s piano is the perfect foil to Eileen’s delivery on ‘They Can’t Take That Away from Me’ – it would be very easy to imagine Gene Kelly dancing soft shoe to this one. ‘Almost Like Being in Love’ has a brighter, crisp delivery with a Bossa Nova light beat and good piano and bass lines. ‘The Very Thought of You’ unfolds in languorous phrases from both vocalist and pianist with subtle brushwork from Deitemeyer. You get a sense of emotional attachment in this delivery and that makes this one of the album’s stronger tracks. ‘Just In Time’ is another well phrased song with a walking beat and hopeful sentiment. ‘This Can’t Be Love’ picks up the pace and, for me, highlights the joy of being in love. The rhythm skips along and there is a very good bass line line played by Stewart Miller.
You Hit The Spot is, as said earlier, an album of another age. On my initial listen through my impression was “cabaret jazz” but that is not really a fair reflection as subsequent hearings showed me. Tracye Eileen delivers a set of standards in her own way backed by musicians who know how to support her, particularly in the smaller group setting. I don’t think she made enough of her vocal range and occasionally her intonation dragged on the vowel sounds but non of this really detracts from a well-delivered album of standards that have stood the test of time.
You Hit The Spot is released on the Honey Crystal Records label and is available to purchase now.
Musicians: Tracye Eileen Band (1, 2, 8): Tracye Eileen – vocals; Jeremy Kahn – piano; Jon Deitemyer – drums; Stewart Miller – bass; Steve Eisen – reeds; Raphael Crawford – trombone; Victor Garcia – trumpet.
Tracye Eileen Trio (3, 4, 5, 6, 7): Tracye Eileen – vocals; Dennis Luxion – piano; Paul Martin – bass; Linard Stroud – drums.
Tracklist: 1. I Love Being Here With You. 2. You Hit the Spot. 3. They Can’t Take That Away from Me. 4. Almost Like Being in Love. 5. The Very Thought of You. 6. Just in Time. 7. This Can’t Be Love. 8. The End of a Love Affair.