As a vocalist and composer who has forged an intoxicating jazz-steeped sound that draws on R&B, pop and Brazilian music, Peter Eldridge is best known for keeping company with other singers.
A founding member of the vocal quartet New York Voices, he’s also a part of the all-star vocal ensemble Moss, which features Luciana Souza, Kate McGarry, Theo Bleckmann, and Lauren Kinhan (a fellow New York Voice). For his performance Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool, Eldridge changes gears, performing in a stripped down duo Foolish Hearts with bassist Matt Aronoff that couldn’t be more different from his cooperative vocal ventures.
“That’s one of the reasons I’m enjoying this so much.” Eldridge says. “In Moss and New York Voices you get to be a kid in a candy store with all these people offering all these colors. What’s fun about the duo is how intimate it is. It’s all about seeing how little you can get away with and still have the music be transcendent, having all that space and seeing how effective that can be.”
A highly esteemed songwriter, Eldridge has composed tunes covered by stars like Nancy Wilson, Paquito D’Rivera, Jane Monheit, and Ivan Lins (an ultimate compliment from one of Brazil’s most celebrated and prolific songwriters). Possessing a lithe warm tenor, he’s recorded several solo albums too, most recently 2011’s Mad Heaven (Palmetto Records), though he’s yet to document Foolish Hearts. The project came together several years ago when he was on faculty at the Manhattan School of Music, and in need of an apartment mate for his place in Queens.
Aronoff was a grad student at the time. “I had heard him at school and really liked his playing,” Eldridge says. “He has a wonderful sound, with great intonation. He’s almost hybrid jazz and classical player, and just a really good guy.”
Quite naturally they started playing tunes together at home for fun, and the musical connection was so good Eldridge started arranging jazz and pop tunes for the duo. They both embraced the less-is-more challenge, and after a while they developed a group sound with Aronoff adding vocals and percussion parts on the bass.
“I’m so used to a full rhythm section, it was wonderfully challenging,” Eldridge says. “One day it just felt like enough, that this is all this needs, and we started performing.”
Foolish Hearts has continued to thrive long distance, as Aronoff now lives in Brooklyn and Eldridge relocated to Boston to teach at Berklee College of Music last fall. Building on a repertoire of standards, Foolish Hearts continues to make savvy musical choices.
“It’s definitely evolving,” Eldridge says. “We’re doing more original stuff and mixing it up more. I think we’re trying to go into different worlds, take those singer/songwriter, Brazilian, and esoteric elements and shoot them off to different worlds.”
For some two decades Moh Alileche was the face of Berber music in the Bay Area, a passionate singer and master of the 10-string mondol who wrote songs about the plight of his people in Algeria. Now living in Portland, Ore., he performs Saturday at Ashkenaz, which long served as his homebase. More than a homecoming, the concert is a tribute and celebration of the lives of several seminal figures who intersected with Alileche during his Bay Area years, including the Middle Eastern musician-author Mimi Spencer, blues and throat singer Paul Pena, Nubian oud master and composer Hamza El Din, violinist Devi-Ja, Celtic master Chris Caswell, Middle Eastern drummer Armando Mafufo, folk musician Rita Weil Byxbe, and DJ-producer Cheb i Sabbah. “Without Mimi Spencer’s help in music, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Alileche says. “And these other Bay Area musicians inspired and encouraged me through the years.”
Andrew Gilbert lives in west Berkeley and covers music and dance for the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and East Bay Express.
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