According to the sleeve notes on Fly Me to the Moon, Milwaukee–based Suzanne Grzanna has a growing list of admirers. Wish I could count myself among them, but she’ll have to produce something far more persuasive than this before that happens. Grzanna doubles on vocals and alto sax, and needs a lot of work in both areas. On this recording she’s easily outdistanced by her sidemen, especially pianist Hazeltine. Grzanna sings on half a dozen selections, uncloaking a quavering, little–girl voice (think of Blossom Dearie without the charm or well–tailored material) that causes one to wonder whether she’d perhaps swallowed some helium before approaching the microphone. Her strident alto saxophone reveals a similar fainthearted temper, which would at least be tolerable if her improvisations were of any interest, but alas, they are as undeveloped and prosaic as everything else Grzanna tries. The thought occurred that maybe she was putting us on, but I can’t buy that. The more unsettling impression is that Grzanna is doing the best she can, and that many people apparently are quite pleased by that (she earned the Wisconsin Area Music Industry’s 1997 WAMI award as Best Jazz Artist). In our opinion, that doesn’t say much for the Wisconsin area’s Jazz talent. Whenever Grzanna completes a solo on Fly Me to the Moon and Hazeltine takes command, the session catches fire, only to be smothered again when she returns. It pains me to write this, as I have long been a champion of women in Jazz and an ardent supporter of talented young artists like Jessica Williams and admirable ensembles such as DIVA and Maiden Voyage. If someone can play, gender (and color) are irrelevant. But Grzanna’s playing seldom rises above rudimentary, nor does her singing. To say that her debut is inauspicious would be a sizable understatement.
Track listing: All of Me; In a Sentimental Mood; As Time Goes By; Jazz and Me; From My Heart; Mr. P.C.; Fly Me to the Moon; Latin Nights; My Funny Valentine; Tenor Madness; Now’s the Time; Always Thinking of You; Capri; St. Thomas (60:32).
Suzanne Grzanna, alto saxophone, vocals; David Hazeltine, piano; Jeff Hamann, bass; Brian Ritter, drums.
Contact: DIVA Records, P.O. Box 511735, Milwaukee, WI 53203