Susan Tobocman: Touch & Go

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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Susan Tobocman: Touch & Go
A glance at the song list presented here—some rather unique choices, for sure—could lead one to assume that this album warrants a listen. What really slams things home, however, are Susan Tobocman's exceptionally slick arrangements of said selections, her excellent vocal skills, and some fine solo playing.

With Touch & Go Tobocman—a Detroit native and now a New Yorker—offers five originals which are enveloped by a number of Top 40 re-imagined hits and a trio of standards from the GAS. Backed by a superior horn in Joel Frahm and a great rhythm section, Tobocman demos that she is a deft vocalist who has a sixth sense for time, lyric, and emotion. And, her production chops are superb.

Irving Berlin's tale of lost love opens the session samba-contemporized with Tobocman wringing fine emotional juice without being camp. "Wichita Lineman," perennially linked to Glenn Campbell and hardly ever heard in a jazz album context, continues the deep emotional state— and with Dave Eggar's cello and Pete McGann's guitar statements, is the first of the shrewdly re-visited pop selections. Later, "Help" (with an alternate take added) and Bond-flick's "You Only Live Twice" continue that idea.

Tobocman's is a lighter, resonant voice with rich sense of time feel and a fine way with a line. That's on display in the aforementioned "Wichita Lineman," "The Man I Love"—here taken up-tempo and swinging hard via Matt Pavolka's bass and Michael Savin's set —and all across the date. She's solid straight-ahead on her "Make Believe," "I Could Get Used to This," and inviting on the exotically romantic "The Way to You," which features fine Pete McCann and Henry Hey solos.

An award-winning poet, her original compositions are lyric-intense and, in the case of the instrumentals, "Leaves of Absence" and the burner "Touch & Go," sonorously rich. As an arranger, she's proving to be able to see new textures and vivid colors in tunes that are iconic. That proves she is a risk-taker, not a "re-hasher" (sadly, a too common occurrence these days).

Saxophonist Joel Frahm, is a brilliant and innovative improviser who lends great strength to those tracks on which he appears. And, the rhythm section supports superbly.

Touch & Go is a very pleasant surpise. Touch "Play" but, be alerted, you won't "Go."

Track Listing

What'll I Do; Wichita Lineman; The Man I Love; Make Believe; Leaves Of Absence; Help! ; I Could Get Used To This; The Way To You; Touch & Go; Where Is Love?; You Only Live Twice; Help! (Alternate Take).


Susan Tobocman: voice / vocals; Joel Frahm: saxophone, tenor; Dave Eggar : cello; Pete McCann: guitar; Henry Hey: keyboards; Matt Pavolka: bass; Michael Sarin: drums.

Album information

Title: Touch & Go | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Soliterra Records

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