Calling out bias and bullying in a unique mix of urban, Afro-pop, jazz, and latin flavored songs, this newest release from saxophonist-singer-songwriter Susan Goodman (Sooz) is the long awaited follow up to her 2000 release Stand Up! Speak Out! (In between was her 2009 jazz release, Central Park West). Live Out Loud is an ear-catching expression of Sooz’ distinctly original songwriting, where it intersects with her passion for social justice. Weaving together a decidedly diverse collection of musical styles, she casts a wide net for an equally diverse collection of listeners.
Live Out Loud was created for music-savvy teens (middle, high school, and college students) but will be appreciated by parents, teachers, and all who support equality and human rights. Lyrics shine a light on the spectrum of bias--from xenophobia to homophobia—and celebrate the courage and compassion to speak out against them, and be Allies for one another.
Songs tackling tough topics run the gamut from fierce to lyrical. Sooz’ soulful tenor and soprano saxophone and flute solos are threaded throughout, between unexpected ear-catching vocal harmonies (arranged by Kristina Pruitt) and hot horn sections (arranged by Blood Sweat & Tears trumpeter/arranger Steve Jankowski). Master percussionist Bobby Sanabria graces the project with his unmistakably authentic Afro-Cuban grooves--as well as a heartfelt Spanish rap--on the lone Latin jazz song on the CD, Compasión (a bilingual appeal for compassion).
The rhythm section is comprised of Sooz' usual mix of exceptional groove-meisters, including the ever-inventive Frank Strauss on keyboards (and rhythm section arrangements), Sounds of Philadelphia veteran guitarist Ron Jennings, legendary bassist Chico Huff, and drummer Jimmy Coleman (formerly with John Legend). Jazz pianist Jim Ridl (Dave Liebman Big Band) makes a guest (re)appearance on the driving remix of Prejudice Is the Enemy.
Lyrics are well-crafted and thought-provoking. You can read them in their entirety on her website, but here’s a taste of what you will hear:
BEIN' BRAVE: This urban/Afro-beat opening song makes the distinction between snitchin’ and speaking out: “What’s your intention? What’s your motivation? / You’ve got to step up to the plate or you’re a cold collaborator backin’ up the perpetrator / Is that who you want to be?”
THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK: A provocative challenge to name-calling: “Don’t diss me or my identity” / It’s not yours / Don’t use it like an obscenity / Your right to free speech has limits that end with me, and my right to safety and civility”
ALLY: A slinky R & B groove, with lyrics laying out the fact that “Prejudice is prejudice / Xenophobe or homophobe or member of the Klan / Ignorance breeds hate and fear of different kinds of people we don’t understand / Straight boy, straight girl, say you’ll be an Ally”
PREJUDICE IS THE ENEMY: A compelling 12/8 groove punctuated by rhythmically stomping feet gives this remix a sense of urgency: “Prejudice is the enemy… / Even if your own friends and family tell you / That one kind of person is better than one other kind”
CYBER SNIPER: An Afro-pop/Peter Gabriel-esque groove: “Cyber Sniper deals in cowardly fare / Talkin’ trash, talkin’ mean / While you hide behind a screen somewhere / It’s a Mean Girls kind of game / Taking pleasure in my pain / Have the courage not to play…"
NO: It never meant anything but No: “No matter if you paid, if you pleaded, if you thought that it was well understood, she would finally come through / No matter how you feel, ticked off, led on, ripped off / There’s nothing that she owes to you”
COMPASIÓN: A bilingual Latin song in the middle of this CD is an unexpected gem and, like compassion, sorely needed to combat bias and bullying: “Empathy / When you hear me cry, a tear comes to your eye / I see your humanity / Eso nos hace humanos (that’s what makes us human) / Ten compasión (have compassion)"
LIVE OUT LOUD Inspired by the Émile Zola quote, “If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you, I came to live out loud!” this is a song of encouragement to carry on, even through the darkest days, written especially for targets of bullying: Don’t give up on your life!
“If anyone ever told you to hide who you really are and feel ashamed / I hope you knew that was cruel and clueless, and that their ignorance was to blame / But when I lose track of my purpose or my plan / Gotta give myself some tough love and remind me who I am / I’ve got a life to live and I’ve got a lot to give / If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to Live Out Loud!”
More about Sooz:
Tenor and soprano saxophonist and flutist Susan Goodman (Sooz) performed as a jazz artist in Boston, New York, Atlantic City, and Philadelphia before the birth of her children inspired her to write and record five award-winning CDs of original music for children. Catchy songs written in a wide range of styles--from Jazz to Pop to Caribbean to Afro-Beat—feature a high caliber of lyrics, musicianship and production that are decidedly not just for kids.
Sooz’ passion for songwriting inevitably intersected with her passion for social justice. She began writing songs about prejudice as part of her final project in a Holocaust-Genocide Education program. Her songwriting has expanded to address the entire spectrum of bias-based bullying--from xenophobia to homophobia. Her mission is to help make school a safe space for all students, regardless of real or perceived differences in their appearance, ability, race, religion, national origin, culture, accent, sexual orientation, gender or gender expression, or any other aspect of their identity.
Sooz has been presenting her music-based program on bias and bullying STAND UP! SPEAK OUT! for over a decade. Recent national and state legislation is addressing the lethal effects of bullying, and some schools are more actively protecting the rights of ALL students to learn in a safe environment, free of harassment, intimidation, and bullying (HIB). That's a step in the right direction, but a lot more work needs to be done, to help students AND teachers identify bias, and change school cultures, so that EVERY student can exercise his or her right to a good education in a safe space. Sooz is committed to making great music that’s part of the solution.