In her career as a jazz singer, Madeline Eastman has remained close to home while establishing a worldwide presence without recording for a major label, instead releasing a series of independently produced, critically acclaimed recordings. Born June 27, 1954, in San Francisco, CA, she grew up listening to pop tunes on the radio, including those sung by Barbra Streisand, Jack Jones, Vic Damone, and Eydie Gorme, among others. In her senior year of high school, she viewed the film Lady Sings the Blues and discovered Billie Holiday, then enrolled in college music classes at San Francisco State University, and also attended various local jam sessions during her academic years. Finding her calling as a legitimate jazz singer through early voice coach Charles Richards, Eastman made her recording debut with the Full Faith & Credit Big Band; began collaborating with Palo Alto-based trumpeter Tom Harrell; and over the years worked with internationally known veterans like Phil Woods, Cedar Walton, Kenny Barron, Mike Wofford, the Turtle Island String Quartet, Tony Williams, Rufus Reid, Matt Wilson, and vocal mentor Mark Murphy. Barron and Eastman teamed up for a recording project with the legendary 50-member Amsterdam-based Netherlands Metropole Orchestra. In 1990, Eastman and Kitty Margolis co-founded their Mad-Kat record label, through which they were able to make their own music with no commercial or artistic constraints. She has also been a member of the administrative staff for the longstanding San Francisco Jazz Festival.
A pivotal recording, influential for her in terms of composition, arrangements, and phrasings, is Miles Davis' Filles de Kilimanjaro. From this point on, Eastman's approach to time, dynamics, and pitch changed her into a jazz vocalist more interested in taking chances than in toeing conventional standard lines. Her debut recording, Point of Departure from 1990, was followed by Mad About Madeline! in 1991, Art Attack in 1994, and the 2001 CD Bare, which concentrated on ballads. While broadening her repertoire, Eastman added Brazilian and soul/R&B tunes along the way for the 2003 effort Speed of Life, featuring Reid, Akira Tana, pianist Randy Porter, percussionist Michael Spiro, and trumpeter Mike Olmos. Along the way, Eastman has picked up awards from Down Beat magazine critics in their annual Talent Deserving Wider Recognition poll, and has twice been named one of the top female jazz vocalists. She has toured worldwide, from Japan, Finland, Sweden, Germany, and Scotland to New York City nightclubs and festivals close to her West Coast home. Eastman has also become a prominent lyricist, writing her own song lines to several modern jazz classics, and has arranged more than a fair share of her repertoire. Aside from performing, she has conducted many clinics, is director of the Stanford Jazz Workshop, is artistic director of Jazzcamp West, conducts mobile touring Monterey Jazz Festival programs, and does her own VoiceShop retreats. ~ Michael G. Nastos