Notes on the songs:
This collection of Brazilian and Latin originals (except for #3) is largely in odd meters, something the Greek-American Sue Maskaleris feels naturally in her bones. She arranged, and produced the project; played piano/keyboards, sang
vocals, and added a few cameos on violin, and Brazilian guitar and electric bass.
It follows her release, “Unbreakable Heart”, chock full of extraordinary award-winning original music and lyrics, played by legends Eddie Gomez, Lenny White, Mark Murphy, Michal Urbaniak and Toninho Horta.
This is not a "blowing" date; rather, each song is about the composition, lyrics and arrangement, well-played by the cream of the crop of custom-chosen musicians, many from Brazil or Cuba.
The title track, “Bring Nothing But Your Heart” starts the CD with a vamp in 5/4 time, reminiscent of jazz piano legend Horace Silver, who told Sue she writes “a fine composition.” Sue solos and scats with the piano while tenorman "Doc" Halliday adds urgency to the steamy lyric, culminating in a shout chorus.
It’s followed by another odd-metered vamp heralding “The Big Tiri” (pronounced tee-Dee), which is Greek for “cheese,” and refers to her father, hence The Big Cheese. Cuban powerhouse drummer Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez solos along with Sam Burtis on trombone. The Afro-Cuban elements here are drawn from her recent return from that island.
Sue’s take on the classic ballad “Lush Life” exploits her accompaniment skills on the verse, played here on Fender Rhodes, then taking the chorus into a cool Brazilian groove, but in 7/4 time. William Gallison’s aching harmonica solo underscores the heartbreak of the lyric.
She wrote the instrumental “Two Ducklings (Dois Patinhos)” on guitar, which is masterfully played here by Brazil’s great Nelson Faria. Steve Sacks sounds quite ducky on soprano sax! It’s dedicated to her niece’s short-lived pets. A faster reprise closes the CD.
The vocal “So Sacred the Sand” recalls the music of Milton Nascimento and is a heartfelt tribute to John A. Glen. Sue scats a mournful solo with the piano and adds some tasty guitar to the track, which is augmented by a Brazilian style chorus.
Another souvenir from Cuba is the instrumental “O.C.D.”, featuring natives Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez on drums and Oriente Lopez on flute, both soloing. The title derives from the repetitive opening motive. Sue harmonizes on electric violin on the head and sings a rising pad of vocals behind it.
Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 are the inspiration for the catchy “Ready to Love Again”, a breezy, funky samba with a sexy anticipatory lyric. Cecilia Tenconi
plays a hot alto flute solo.
A trip to Minas Gerais, Brazil to visit the great guitarist Toninho Horta yielded the samba, “A Blast of Joy”. Sue scats the simple melody and improvised counterlines, then tosses off a quick guitar solo. Tania Maria fans will enjoy her scatting with the piano. Gradually the tune accelerates into a frenzy, complete with a joyous chorus.
“Kisses from Ivan” was penned after meeting her idol singer/songwriter legend Ivan Lins in Rio in 1987, who anointed her with kisses on both cheeks. He loved the song and recorded the “quotes” of his hits over its solo section. Then to Sue’s great disappointment, Lins told her that the files were lost in post 9/11 mail, with no backup. So Luiz Simas graciously stepped in as his “voz”. Again, a cameo from William Galison, quoting Lins' "Sails" and blowing some farewell harmonica "kisses".
After a playful Chick Corea-esque keyboard intro, a style of music from northeastern Brazil kicks in. The zany music of Hermeto Pascoal (along with some Zappa thrown in for the ride) inspired the madcap “Baiao da Aclimacao”, which paints a vivid picture of the composer racing up and down the very steep hills of Sao Paolo on the back of a Vespa, without a helmet. Listen for the quote of “Aquarela do Brasil” in her crazy synth-vibes solo.
A choir of McAngels reveals the true meaning of Christmas in Sue's irreverent (complete with skating penguins and Peanuts wisemen) funky samba, “The Meaning (Peace & Love)”. A heavy funk groove a la EW&F hammers home the message before the samba intro returns.
All in all, this CD combusts with a rare and fiery originality-- bursting through in her music, lyrics, arrangements, playing and singing, be it through words or vocalese.
What sets Sue apart from other singer/pianists is that she’s also an award-winning composer/lyricist as well as a gifted arranger and producer...and an occasional electric/acoustic violinist, Brazilian guitarist and bassist too. Passionate for Brazilian music, her genuine feel for the style and language has fooled many a native.
At 4 she started piano, adding violin at 8 while writing songbooks. Sue later studied arranging with Don Sebesky and composition at Manhattan School of Music with John Corigliano.
McCoy Tyner happened upon Sue at a NYC gig and became her mentor. He said she had "a touch like Bill's [Evans]".
Her original groups have performed at the Blue Note, Birdland and Iridium, jazz festivals at Lincoln Center and St. Peter’s Church in NYC; the Spoleto and Kool Festivals; clubs in Savannah, GA and abroad in Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland and England.
Her debut CD “Unbreakable Heart” (Jazilian Records) featured Eddie Gomez, Lenny White, Toninho Horta, Michal Urbaniak and Mark Murphy on her award-winning originals. Sue’s song “Scat!” was 2nd choice worldwide in the Thelonious Monk Composition Competition, which Dr. Billy Taylor called “the consummate jazz song”. Her songs have been performed by Danilo Perez, Bob Dorough, Roger Kellaway and others. She’s backed legendary singers Abbey Lincoln, Annie Ross; worked with bassists Harvie S, John Benitez, David Finck; drummers Mark Walker, Portinho; guitarists David Spinozza, Paul Meyers, and the list goes on.
Sue’s been called the “female Michael Franks” and "female Steely Dan", due to her way with a lyric: “I’ve got the skating penguins caroling in my yard. I’ve got the Peanuts Wisemen dancing on my card”--from the holiday song “The Meaning (Peace and Love)”. Sue has also been named "the American Tania Maria" for her spicy scatting to her piano solos.
She’s battled the “another chick singer” stigma within the jazz industry, which tends to label anyone who also sings as ”only” a singer--most of whom aren’t accomplished pianists, lyricists, composers and arrangers like Sue.“Seems to me that Sue is one of the exceptions,” wrote Ellen Johnson in Singer Magazine. She certainly belongs in a class with Tania Maria and Diana Krall.
“This is not a blowing date,” Sue wants to make clear. Long solos by myself or others s are not what this music is about; rather the arrangements, composition, lyrics and form.” She has a “pop sensibility”, according to journalist/radio host Michael Bourne of WBGO.org. Sue likes to cast the ideal musicians for each song. The CD is half instrumentals with vocalese, and half songs with vocals.
This lady has it all!...an extraordinary talent.”-- Michael Bourne
“A genius!" -- guitarist Gene Bertoncini, tenorman John Stubblefield
"Every single song is a work of art.”-- George Klabin, producer, radio host
“A major writer.” --trombonist/producer Barry Rogers