Philadelphia-based vocalist Susie Meissner has been surveying the Great American Songbook for the past decade and some. Her approach is uncomplicated, using simple head arrangements, presenting the songs that made Tin Pan Alley noteworthy in a straightforward and authentic fashion, and recalling the original intentions of the composers. Hers is an archival and entertainment endeavor not unlike Linda Ronstadt's swing with Nelson Riddle, which resulted in What's New (Asylum, 1983), Lush Life (Asylum, 1984), and For Sentimental Reasons (Asylum, 1986), except that Meissner takes the art a step further, adding a potent swing to the mix, where Ronstadt approached the same music as Frank Sinatra had, as a song stylist rather than a jazz singer.
Meissner's voice is a clear, bell-like alto, durably suited to her repertoire and its delivery. She is not a scat or vocalese singer, rather staying in the orbit of the original melodies, injecting intelligent and applicable reharmonizations in all of the right places. She is supported by pianist John Shaddy, bassist Ron Williams, drummer Abe Speller, tenor saxophonist Greg Riley, alto saxophonist David Mann and trumpeter Bryan Lynch. I'll Remember April contains the music from a previously-released EP, My Foolish Heart (Self Produced, 2008). The result is a well-rounded collection of a baker's dozen of love songs from the Great American Songbook.
Meissner prefers medium to up-tempo treatments given a Carribian-Brazilian lilt by her support. The title song is presented briskly, featuring Lynch and Riley. The rhythm section is well integrated and practiced. Delivery is smooth and swinging, the coda a Bossa Dixieland romp. Just as briskly played is "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" and "My Foolish Heart" both inspiring movement be it a nodding head or tapping toe. "I'm Old Fashioned" is a joyful earworm. Meissner deftly rolls with the melodies her voice sweet and fresh. On the slower pieces, "Never Let Me Go," "What A Wonderful World," and "They Say It's Wonderful," Shaddy provides the bulk of the quietly tasteful support, allowing Meisnner to find her best voice. Her command of the slow ballad is impressive and authoritative and, at the same time warm and embracing.
This brand of jazz singing is often overlooked by a media more focused on the newer and innovative efforts of cutting-edge artists. There is a place for them and, indeed, for Susie Meissner, who reminds us of the genesis of both the Songbook and its assimilation of and with jazz.
I’ll Remember April; Never Let Me Go; You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To;
I’m Old Fashioned; How Deep is the Ocean; Dreamer; What a Wonderful
World; There’s A Small Hotel; Meditation; I Remember You; Little Girl Blue;
My Foolish Heart; They Say It’s Wonderful.
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