On the Other Hand
January 26, 2010

Jazz vocal albums paying tribute to Tin Pan Alley are a dime a dozen these days. Unfortunately, too many 21st century jazz singers — and for that matter, 21st century jazz instrumentalists — show their laziness when they stick to predictable versions of warhorses that were already beaten to death 30 or 40 years earlier. But On the Other Hand, it turns out, is one of the 2000s more interesting and ambitious examples of a jazz/cabaret vocalist turning her attention to Tin Pan Alley. This 2009 recording finds Katie Eagleson acknowledging about 20 different songwriters who contributed to the Great American Songbook. On the Other Hand contains plenty of well-known standards; anyone who is seriously into vocal jazz, cabaret, and traditional pop has no doubt heard countless versions of Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is the Ocean," Burton Lane's "Old Devil Moon," and Walter Donaldson's "Love Me or Leave Me." But Eagleson, to her credit, doesn't adhere to an all-warhorses-all-the-time policy. There are some surprises as well; Jimmy McHugh's "Lost in a Fog," Arthur Schwartz' "Make the Man Love Me," and Cy Coleman's "When in Rome" aren't songs that have been beaten to death in recent years. And when Eagleson opens this 62-minute CD with George Gershwin's "Who Cares?," it is obvious that she isn't afraid to make some less-than-obvious choices. In other words, she did her homework and put some thought into this album. Combine that thoughtfulness with her clean, tasteful phrasing, and you have a jazz/cabaret disc that isn't groundbreaking but is certainly more interesting than many of the 21st century's Great American Songbook efforts. Jazz, cabaret, and traditional pop enthusiasts who have more than a superficial interest in Tin Pan Alley are advised to give On the Other Hand a close listen.