In what should be thought of as a beautiful dilemma, a multi-talented vocalist like Tracye Eileen is so passionate about several genres – and so good and natural singing them – that it’s been both fascinating to listen to her evolution yet frustrating that there may never be a perfect niche for her.
Inspired by her father Ed Smith, an accomplished jazz percussionist, the Chicago based artist launched her career in 2012 with the straight ahead album Love’s Journey – then followed some years later with a soul/R&B set (Why Did I Say Yes?) and an enthusiastically received smooth jazz EP (It’s Time) which scored extensive international airplay.
Now, coming delightfully full circle, Eileen – who performs regularly at Buddy Guy’s Legends club – dazzles the trad jazz crowd with both soaring power and sultry finesse on You Hit The Spot. The perfect showcase for her ability to woo, seduce, sass us and swing mightily, it’s an ultra-infectious, craftily arranged set of standards, some very familiar (her snappy yet sultry spin on “You Can’t Take That Away From Me”), others, like her emphatic romp through title track, delightfully obscure (“You Hit The Spot” originated in the 1936 film "Collegiate").
Right in the middle of that cultural awareness factor is her wistful yet ultimately buoyant take on the beautifully orchestrated “The End of a Love Affair” (recorded by everyone from Wes Montgomery to Frank Sinatra, Julie London and Billie Holiday). Two songs that capture the many ways Eileen can grab the heartstrings are her slow, breathy and intimate “The Very Thought of You” and her jaunty, whimsical spin on “Almost Like Being in Love.”
With sets of tracks recorded with two different bands, You Hit The Spot is also a dynamic showcase of some of Chicago’s top jazz musicians. As wonderful as she is singing soul music and smooth jazz, for Eileen, her artful way with traditional jazz is truly the one that hits the spot.