Sometimes you get lucky and you find yourself seeing an international musician in a suddenly intimate setting because it’s her first time playing in Minneapolis. And that was the case seeing Eleanor Dubinsky at the Parkway Theater on Tuesday night.
Dubinsky plays jazz, the easy kind that you can just sit back and soak in. She played themes of freedom and forgiveness. Both personal and community. She came to Minnesota in deference to band member Michael O’Brien, who is from Minnesota. He plays bass and upright bass.
Soft Spot of my Heart, from her latest CD of the same name was a highlight. The song comes from the Buddhist idea that there’s a soft spot in your heart that can hold everything, all the feels. It’s a song that washes into you with soft intermittent chimes that call you back into the space.
Dubinsky is elegant and worldly with songs in French, Spanish and Portuguese. She sang a catchy French song about stopping life to focus on forgetting a man and smoking. Funny to see a French song nearly become a singalong. And a rare treat that makes a lapsed French minor feel smug.
Her band is impressive and accomplished. Each musician has a way of making certain songs their own while working on the whole. The percussionist was especially fun to hear. The bongos lifted every song while the chimes and other sounds left an exotic feel. There were some nods to the world to with an apropos version of Wind Won’t Knock it Down in honor of the people standing strong in the face of Hurricane Dorian. You Are Special, You Are Beautiful brought the room together in recognition of the people who feel disenfranchised or really unseen and unheard since the last election. The song is an anthem. Jazzy but with a pliant blues edge.
Dubinsky’s voice is strong and polished in each language but it’s fun to hear that it’s a little different in each language too. Very personal in Portuguese. A hint of defiance or risque in French. Dubinsky can sell out venues in New York. Again, fun to catch her catching on in Minnesota where she’s sure to build a crowd.