Vocalist-composer Rosana Eckert
channels her eclectic musical influences into a similarly eclectic collection of tunes on her long-awaited fourth album, Sailing Home
, set for a June 21 release on OA2/Origin Records. The album is a collaboration with Peter Eldridge
, the highly sought-after vocalist, songwriter, and keyboardist, who in addition to producing and playing keyboards on the album cowrote three of its 11 tunes. Eckert (and Eldridge) also wrote with her husband Gary Eckert, a poet, composer, and multi-instrumentalist who plays percussion on three tracks.Sailing Home
is Eckert’s first recording since 2010’s Small Hotel
. The lifelong Texan has spent the past nine years since then raising her young daughter but also working as a live performer, as well as behind the scenes as an arranger, clinician, studio singer/voiceover artist, book author, and principal lecturer of vocal jazz in the prestigious Jazz Studies program at the University of North Texas. “Rosana is so known and honored as an educator, and rightfully so,” says Eldridge, a longtime friend of Eckert’s. “But I wanted her to also see herself as a major artist, shaking off the educator title a bit while recording this project.”
“I had some songs I’d been performing for a while and I knew they needed a fresh ear to make them special and different,” says Eckert. “Working with Peter was inspiring, natural, and very fun.…It was his idea to make this a guitar-driven album rather than piano-based, which had always been my approach before.”
That concept, combined with Eckert’s omnivorous musical inspiration, creates a bright spotlight for guitarist Corey Christiansen
. Its shifting directions—from the gentle but steady swing of “Garby the Great,” to the tender wistfulness of “Someone Else’s Life,” to the hard-edged New Orleans funk of “Coriander Stomp”—provide him both ample solo space and opportunities to demonstrate his remarkable stylistic versatility.
Not to be outdone, the other core members of the band (Eldridge, bassist Young Heo, and drummer Steve Barnes) also submit superlative performances throughout. So do guests Daniel Pardo, whose beautiful alto flute work illuminates the ballad “Empty Room” and bossa nova “Lovely Ever After”; Brian Piper, who dives into the gutbucket with his piano solo on “Coriander Stomp”; and Ginny Mac, whose accordion provides the secret sauce for the Tex-Mex shuffle “Waiting.”
Eckert, however, is the one who ultimately embodies Sailing Home
. She wrote or cowrote all of its songs save one (“Empty Room,” which Eldridge and Gary Eckert wrote together) and imbues them with her combination of powerful instrument, vast palette, and infallible technique. It is her performance that ultimately defines each song, bringing the sweet contentment to “Sailing Home,” brash confidence to “For Good,” exquisite warmth to the haunting “Meant for Me.”
Rosana Calderon Eckert was born in 1974 in El Paso, Texas and grew up on the singers that her Mexican-American parents loved. Living on the U.S.-Mexican border, she was also immersed in the musical traditions of both countries, as well as their cross-pollinations. She studied French horn in high school, winning four all-state honors—as well as the scholarships that allowed her to enroll at the University of North Texas’s (UNT) highly respected College of Music as a classical theory and French horn performance major.
“On a lark,” Eckert auditioned for the University of North Texas Jazz Singers, the school’s premier vocal jazz ensemble, in her junior year. She was accepted and eventually became section leader, lead soprano, featured soloist, and arranger, later singing with the school’s One O’Clock Lab Band and various other ensembles; chosen to tour with the Sisters in Jazz Collegiate Sextet; and selected for the Thelonious Monk Aspen Jazz Colony. She completed this shift in her musical trajectory by becoming the first vocalist in UNT history to earn a master’s degree in jazz studies. The school then hired her as its first private jazz voice teacher.
Meanwhile, Eckert began a parallel career as a working musician in nearby Dallas, performing with her own jazz band and doing commercial singing and voiceover work. She also began writing her own songs, which ultimately led to the creation of her 2003 debut recording At the End of the Day
. It was followed by Two for the Road
(2007) and the acclaimed Small Hotel
Rosana Eckert will perform CD release concerts at the Kitchen Café, 17370 Preston Rd. #415, Dallas, on Fri. 6/21 and Sat. 6/22.