Natural but determined evolution makes for well conceived and produced projects. Vocalist Susie Meissner has proved this statement as she progressed from her debut recording I'll Remember April (Lydian Jazz, 2009), through her sophomore effort, I'm Confessin' (Lydian Jazz, 2011) to the present Tea for Two. Using a well-worn repertoire, Meissner, mostly with the support of pianist John Shaddy and his regular rhythm section (bassist Lee Smith and drummer Dan Monaghan), has steadily moved from solid, if not predictable, arrangements and delivery to more daring presentations (albeit, still coloring well within the lines). The motherlode of American Music continues to provide.
On Tea for Two, Meissner turns tempos on their head by giving the title piece a ballad-slow seven-plus-minute reading (compare this to Anita O'Day's incendiary performance in Jazz on a Summer's Day (Galaxy Attractions, 1959)). Meissner takes her time, sharing it with clarinetist Ken Peplowski who brings his own Benny Goodman-inspired smooth, wood tone to the mix. On "Mean to Me," the reedsman is tenor saxophonist Larry McKenna who passes straight through Lester Young on his way to Stan Getz and Scott Hamilton and beyond in his inspired solo and support, while Meissner highlights some of the most clever lyrics written.
Meissner specializes in the old songs. The original score of "Moonlight Saving Time" was published in 1931 and recorded by Guy Lombardo and Maurice Chevalier, among others. Meissner adds a steady bounce, propelled by Peplowski's swing-era clarinet. The 1933 chestnut "Moonglow" is blown off and taken for a brisk round-the-block, again with Peplowski slipping around, sounding more like Artie Shaw. The effect is intoxicating as it was in the last year of Prohibition. The 1929 musical film Marianne showcase "Just You, Just Me" features Lee Smith on bass in a spare and brisk arrangement of the Greer-Klages composition.
With impressive command, Susie Meissner makes her merry way through the Great American Songbook. It is a golden age from which to draw. Let's hope she has much more to say about it.
If I Were A Bell; Tea For Two; Mean To Me; Moonlight Saving Time; Laura; Love Is
Here To Stay; Moonglow; Just You, Just
Me; Everything I Love; Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry; I Didn't Know What
Time It Was; Crazy He Calls Me; Triste; Say
It Isn't So/Always.
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