The newest release Private Book by vocalist Sue Hart is a forty-one minute, ten-song presentation of smooth, well crafted jazz inflected music. Hart’s recording is very nice, straightforward and, in an unobtrusive way, quite pleasant to listen to. Those accustomed to a more “soulful” straight-ahead brand of jazz and captivated by the improvisatory art may feel left somewhat short. While Hart possesses a very pleasant voice and she does add some jazz sensibility to her otherwise passive disaffected singing style, she does not improvise vocally, and there is minimal soloing by the backing instrumentalists. A few straight ahead swingers on this recording may appeal to aficionados of “old school” jazz, however most of the Jim Quealy composed originals have Hart sounding like an R&B-oriented pop singer rather than a jazz diva. This recording truly is jazz “light” and it will likely be of great appeal to fans of "contemporary" jazz.
Liner notes to the CD tout that this was truly a “road” album with Hart’s vocal tracks recorded at various locales around the United States in a mobile studio set up by Hart and husband/producer/percussionist James Shattuck in their 35 foot Aerbus motor home. While this is an interesting idea, seeking inspiration from various spots from across America, the prerecorded accompaniment to Hart’s vocals sound somewhat contrived, formulaic, and stilted. Also what might be missing is the opportunity for spontaneous interaction between musicians in communally made music. There are some very bright spots on Private Book. Particularly outstanding is the song “All the Love I Need,” which has a catchy hook in the vocal line, and a melodic guitar solo by Richard Bredice. Although it somewhat is more akin to a tear jerking country ballad, complete with a “whining” guitar in the background, the title cut, “Private Book,” is also an emotional journey worth a listen. Finally, “Eyes of an Angel” also stands out as a tune with a groove that has a fun swinging sound and capable piano soloing by Karen Hammack.
With the popularity of “light” jazz and singers such as Norah Jones, certainly the definition of what constitutes jazz has been enlarged to encompass greater stylistic diversity. While it is true that even some of the greatest vocalists long associated with jazz, such as Billie Holiday and Tony Bennett, have not been improvisers, and they have drawn from a repertory of predominantly pop songs, they still at least have maintained an adequate dimension of the jazz tradition in their singing “persona,” drawn from the wellspring of their forbearers in the art form. With new singers fording the stream of the jazz tradition, the “lighter” sounds of the jazz spectrum may likely be problematic for listeners who are most closely drawn to the traditions of jazz performance. Like other artists who tend toward the lighter side, Sue Hart’s pleasant performance will still likely have broad appeal to that wide-ranging audience that enjoys pretty, less invasive music.
Track Listing: You Already Know, Next Big Thing, Summer, All the Love I Need, Private
Book, Eyes of an Angel, Something Wrong, My Only Explanation, Other
Side, You and I
Personnel: Sue Hart, vocals; James Shattuck, drums and percussion; Karen
Hammack, keyboards and bass; Richard Bredice, guitar and bass; Jim
I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition
I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition. He was on the band bus the next day as Dorsey's alto sax and clarinet player, and never looked back. He played with great bandleaders such as Freddie Martin, Tex Beneke and Ray McKinley, some before he was out of his teens (they had to lie about his age to get him into nightclubs). Many older musicians have told me he was the greatest alto sax player they ever worked with. He was equally great on clarinet and was clarinetist and harmony singer for cocktail jazz pioneers, the Ernie Felice Quartet.
He eventually left the road and settled down, and that's when I came in. By that time, he was, by day, vocal group session leader/player/arranger for classic jingles and commercial music produced in Dallas. At night, he played in society bands, jazz combos and elegant showrooms. Tuesdays were slow in the showrooms, so band members' families got in free, and my mom took me to see him backing such legends as Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Steve and Eydie, and a very old Ella Fitzgerald. Between that, hearing his record collection, growing up around the legendary musicians and singers who were like aunts and uncles to me, and just listening to him practice around the house, filling the neighborhood with incredible jazz sax riffs, I couldn't help becoming that weird kid who was listening to Peggy Lee, Ella and Manhattan Transfer when my classmates were listening to rock, country and soul.
Even though he died before I ever sang professionally, he remains my inspiration and all my CDs are dedicated to him. I like to think that he'd like my music, since it's built on the foundation he handed down to me.