straight ahead jazz vocalist with a warm tone and expansive lyricism
A major jazz and swing singer, Susie Meissner always seems to have a smile in her voice. In addition to her very appealing tone and impeccable musicianship, the enthusiasm that she displays when she performs is infectious. She always swings and is an excellent improviser yet the lyrics that she interprets are especially important to her. “When I perform a song,” says Susie, “I want to express the emotions of the words, so the listener is experiencing the lyrics the way that the writer intended. I’m never casual about the lyrics.” Her skill at reviving and revitalizing classic songs in very much in evidence throughout her recordings. Susie Meissner performs regularly in Philadelphia, particularly at Chris’ Jazz Café, and for her latest recording she decided to feature some of Philly’s best jazz musicians along with a few guests. Susie’s fourth CD, I Wish I Knew, is the singer’s second release featuring a stellar group of Philly-based musicians: trumpeter John Swana, saxophonist Larry McKenna, bassist Lee Smith and drummer Byron Landham. In addition, Meissner invited some longtime collaborators from outside Philadelphia: pianist John Shaddy, guitarist Paul Meyers and master clarinetist Ken Peplowski. Since the release of her 2009 debut, I’ll Remember April, Meissner has worked with a host of gifted jazz musicians, including Martin Wind, Brian Lynch, Wycliffe Gordon, Joe Magnarelli and Matt Wilson, among others. But she discovered a spiritual home in the City of Brotherly Love. “As a child I was always singing,” remembers Susie. Her grandmother played stride piano and her family was very fond of show tunes. “We had the sheet music from the Great American Songbook in the piano bench. The illustrated covers were real works of art and I used to hang them on my bedroom wall. I also listened to the records in my Grandfather’s Dixieland collection early on. Music has been an important part of my life.” Susie, who grew up in Buffalo, had piano and vocal lessons and sang in school choirs and musicals. She became interested in jazz after seeing performances by guitarist Kenny Burrell, pianist Earl Hines, and singer Nancy Wilson. When she was 17 Susie became a professional singer, performing the music from shows such as Oklahoma! and Hello Dolly in dinner theaters. She learned a countless number of songs from the Great American Songbook (Irving Berlin, Lerner & Loewe, Frank Loesser and Cole Porter became some of her favorite composers) and gained experience performing jazz in nightclubs. After college, Susie Meissner moved to New York City, determined to become a jazz singer. “I couldn’t get it out of my system.”. Since the release of her 2009 debut, I’ll Remember April, Meissner has worked with a host of gifted jazz musicians in NYC, including Martin Wind, Brian Lynch, Dean Johnson, Tim Horner, Wycliffe Gordon, Joe Magnarelli, and Matt Wilson, among others. But she discovered a spiritual home in the City of Brotherly Love. “I am living my musical dream, learning, performing, and recording songs that mean a lot to me and, I hope, to listeners.” Now, with the release of I Wish I Knew, Susie Meissner is on the brink of greater success. Her irresistible and inviting singing, the way that she caresses ballads, her deep understanding of the lyrics that she sings and, most of all, that smile in her voice, make her one of today’s top interpreters of the Great American Songbook.
My Jazz Story
I was first exposed to jazz at an intimate Earl Fatha' Hines piano concert, as well as a Kenny Burrell concert. The best show I ever attended was a tribute to Danny Barker at Snug Harbor in New Orleans. Second best: a Stevie Wonder concert in NYC. I was excited to meet and talk with Shirley Horn after one of her performances.