For her third album, singer Sue Tucker wanted to try something different. Her concept was to explore a more earthy jazz vocal album in which "jazz meets the gravel road" through the use of rhythm guitar instead of drums. She was also seeking less familiar tunes with great melodies and lyrics that apply to today's environmentand which haven't been overexposed on recordings. Appropriately, the album is titled Back Home.
Sue Tucker comes from a most musical family. Her father, Jack Oatts, was one of Iowa's first jazz educators; her brothers are trumpeter Jim Oatts and the much-recorded reedman Dick Oatts. The singer also has woodwind training and experience. Her last album, May I Come In (2004), benefited from the presence of Dick Oats, Ted Rosenthal, Joe Magnarelli and John Mosca. Here she utilizes local talent: pianist Tanner Taylor, bassist Gary Raynor and conguero Luis Santiago; the only familiar face from previous sessions is the guitarist, Kent Saunders.
I really enjoyed May I Come In, especially the mix of relatively obscure songs and Tucker's ability to make them swing. I don't know that the choice of material is any different on this album. Sue Tucker has a bit of a Susannah McCorkle-ish lilt to her voice and manages once again to make the music come alive.
The well-trodden Strayhorn/Ellington tune "Just A-Sittin' And A-Rockin'" opens the album in a mid-tempo pace, and Tucker smartly rides it along with Taylor. The Benny Goodman/Edgar Sampson piece "Lullaby in Rhythm" remains an untouched jazz vocal on contemporary recordings. The lyrics to Benny Golson's "Whisper Not" and Benny Carter's "When Lights Are Low," by Spencer Williams, make a solid choice for the singer, complemented by an arco solo from Raynor. Raynor also begins the Dorothy Fields/Jimmy McHugh standard "Exactly Like You" with a bass intro and then a duet with Tucker. Saunders takes a tasty guitar solo on the break.
On the Leo Robin/Jule Styne tune "Bye Bye Baby," Tucker begins with the sweetly voiced verse and then shifts into a swing tempo, with Kent Saunders taking a burning solo on guitar. On Victor Young's "Beautiful Love," a tune long associated with Bill Evans, Tucker chooses a rarely tackled vocal with some assistance from Santiago. The album concludes with a touching and effective ballad, a Broadway tune from Martin and Leonard, "Why Did I Choose You."
Personnel: Sue Tucker: vocals; Tanner Taylor: piano; Gary Raynor: bass; Kent Saunders: guitar; Luis Santiago: congas.