The Fantastic Sinne Eeg at Dizzy’s Coca Cola

From my Downbeat review, 3/22/2016

Describing herself as “a simple girl from the Danish countryside,” the ever-humble Sinne Eeg gave a perfect lesson in the art of jazz singing March 15 at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in New York.

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In the modern era, when most jazz singers draw from the pop canon simply as a matter of survival, Eeg makes no such allowances. She possesses exceptional technique—power, good taste, enunciation, control, earned wisdom—and knows how to work a song for all it’s worth, sometimes holding out a final climactic note until the very end, wowing audiences with a single sustained word.

She can also knock you back in your seat with a dizzying whole note that might curve up, swerve, then quickly swoop down, leaving you in awe of her skills. Most importantly, Eeg swings.

Supported by pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Johanes Weidenmueller and drummer Clarence Penn, Eeg took the stage not as a determined, first-time-at-Dizzy’s artist intent on winning over the audience, but as a confident professional. She approached the microphone as a playful performer, engaging in theatrical antics, arching her eyebrows and making flowing hand movements that at times replicated the gestures of a trombone player.

Her presence on stage evinced a sureness of self. Eeg knows who she is. There may be jazz singers with purer, prettier voices, but very few with Eeg’s inherent gifts and mastery of the Great American Songbook.

As on her most recent album, Eeg and Thomas Fonnesbaek’s Eeg-Fonnesbaek (Stunt Records, 2015), the vocalist sang a combination of standards and original material. More than standing their ground next to such classics as “Summertime,” “Body And Soul” and “Willow Weep For Me,” Eeg’s original material proved that she is as gifted a songwriter as she is a vocalist.

She opened with “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” her sweet, tenor voice imbuing the song with blues feeling over Weidenmueller’s pliant double bass work. At one point Eeg seemed to shake her entire body in anticipation of her next phrase, a final powerfully held note on the word “shine.”

The song was also memorable for Hays’ solo, which ventured further harmonically afield than one might expect on this standard. But in Eeg’s bedrock control and sure swing, the pianist was grounded in an unshakable groove.

In the Eeg original “Love Is A Time Of Year,” Penn played a humid bossa nova beat over which the vocalist displayed her ample reserves of power in a lengthy scat section. Her left hand moving as if controlling the slide piston of a trombone, Eeg scatted à la Ella Fitzgerald, and she revealed other influences, which this listener discerned as Nancy Wilson, Betty Carter and Sarah Vaughan. Eeg closed the song with one of her trademark held notes, and the audience applauded wildly.

Twice during the night Eeg reinvented standards. Michel Legrand’s “The Windmills Of Your Mind” and the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “It Might As Well Be Spring” have been done to death. But with her winning style and mesmerizing delivery, Eeg re-oriented the songs in a fresh context.

Following the two standards was Eeg’s own “Don’t Be So Blue,” a spacious ballad wrapped in a beautiful melody. Eeg’s pure notes and theatrical style recalled Judy Garland. And like a great opera singer, every part of Eeg’s face served the song, evidenced by her tendency to open and hold her eyes extremely wide when stressing specific notes.

Toots Thieleman’s “Bluesette” was next, a 3/4 jazz romp where Eeg again resurrected the nearly lost art of scatting. Hayes and Penn were particularly fiery here, the drummer shooting off rhythmic sparks that coincided with Eeg’s humorous delivery.

Eeg’s album with Fonnesbaek contains the Lil Johnson cover “Evil Man Blues,” but here she sang its virtual companion piece, “Comes Love,” about a lover who takes no prisoners. Sung as a bass/vocal feature with Weidenmueller, Eeg wrapped her delicious voice around the song like a black widow spider.

“I’ll Remember April,” a duet with Hays, was followed by Eeg’s “New Horizons,” then the night’s finale, “What A Little Moonlight Can Do.”

Jazz master classes are usually held for students and aspiring wannabes. Eeg’s inclusive performance at Dizzy’s was a lesson in great singing for all in attendance.

(Note: On March 29, the U.S. Postal Service will commemorate vocalist Sarah Vaughan by issuing a commemorative stamp featuring her image. To learn more, click here.)

—Ken Micallef

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