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"Her attractive voice and her sensitive interpretation of the lyrics are both in full display... The final eight bars where [Ken Peplowski] interacts with the singer is exquisite..."

-- Scott Yanow, Jazz Inside Magazine

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"Ms. Meissner is definitely in the top tier of today's female jazz singers."

-- Ron Forman, WKRB-FM, NYC

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"Might as well confess! Susie Meissner can really sing! Each listener will have more than one favorite... here they are vocal and instrumental triumphs."

-- Bob Gish, Jazz Inside NY

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Talkin' Broadway

Rob Lester

The seeming offhand and briskly jazzy "Close Your Eyes" opening track on Susie Meissner's CD does not give a hint to the later treasures that demonstrate her ability to get inside a lyric and luxuriate in a lush melody. Later on, she brings a very present, involved-phrasing glow to classic ballads like "Skylark" and "The Nearness of You" and basks in their glow. The title track is quite remarkable, as this number, which can come off as coy and posing or sugary in other hands, works brilliantly on a couple of levels. For one thing, the CD's arranger/sensitive and creative pianist, John Shaddy, creates a varying musical bed of tension and relief, highlighted by a generous solo showcasing trombonist extraordinary Wycliffe Gordon. And Susie finds the vulnerability in the lyric and one imagines something more at stake in the risk of getting into deep emotional waters by admitting the "need" for another and fearing a possible ending. "I'm afraid someday you'll leave me" suddenly sounds like a confession of its own, facing the point past the point of no return if affections are not returned long-term. "I'm confessin' that I love you," with those last three words getting weighted and baited breath with the risk of saying out loud to someone for the first time, "I love you," become dramatic. The same phrase becomes joyously carefree and celebratory in Cole Porter's Mexican Hayride piece, "I Love You," where "it's spring again and birds on the wing again start to sing again that old melody." These old melodies are in good hands here.

This is Miss Meissner's second album, following I'll Remember April and shows real growth and increasing command. There are still some sections where one senses some holding back or a need to take the reins and command more. For example, her "How About You?" feels claustrophobic or rushed sometimes, as if she's barely keeping — rather than setting — pace. But this stands out because on so many cuts she is firmly in comfort zones and confident. Case in point: her bass-and-voice duo with Dean Johnson on "I'm Just a Lucky So and So," sublime and focused, with a serenity that fits the song and makes it a gratifying groove without at all going to town with embellishments. The Gershwins' love song "Embraceable You," from their 1930 Broadway show Girl Crazy, gets a true embrace, as one can sense that she's not just expressing affection for the "many charms about" a loved one, but that the singer herself has real affection for this classic marriage of music and lyrics. Hear how she relishes singing the words and quickening rhythm in the line "Come to Mama, come to Mama, do" and the sexy instrumental partnering of Gordon's great trombone on this, another of his four tracks. (But it's the more ebulliently lusty "Just Squeeze Me" that gives him his gutsy tour de force that makes one sit up and smile broadly; moments when the singer seems a touch too generic or reserved are offset by many, many instrumental triumphs on this album where players are used to such great advantage, not self-servingly so, but song-servingly.)

A good test of jazz vocal CDs that allow lengthy solos and exploratory excursions through very familiar standards is how long the cuts feel. Even at over eight minutes(!), "Detour Ahead" does not seem too musically "detoured" or self-indulgent as it is sung with such inviting ease and has such attractive solos by the pianist and by Freddie Hendrix (flugelhorn/trumpet on this and a couple of other tracks). On the other hand, Frank Loesser's "On a Slow Boat to China" is hardly slow at all and, though the track is 3:37; much is given over to the instrumental break, and the lyric's presented opportunity to express genuine longing is a long way off, opting instead for a breezy, feel-good approach. But there's a real and really sincere time for love with "A Time for Love" (Johnny Mandel/Paul Francis Webster), which closes this endearing album with pensive and pleasingly unencumbered emotion and romantic rhapsodizing, downsizing sentimentality or mush; it shows a singer who's growing into herself and her chosen, very choice songs, surrounded by excellent musicians who are as much co-stars as supportive supporting players.

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