Tessa Souter – Beyond the Blue
(Motéma MTM-87. CD review by Chris Parker)
Tessa Souter, since replacing a career in journalism with one in singing (in 1997), has more than justified the faith placed in her by both her initial mentor, Mark Murphy, and Sheila Jordan, who locates her ‘at the top of my list of great talent’. Three wide-ranging and impeccably performed albums have appeared under her name since 2004, but Beyond the Blue is the first to focus strongly on her lyric writing, a skill applied in this instance to a series of pieces from the classical repertoire, including the Allegretto from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, Schubert’s Serenade, a Chopin Prelude and Fauré’s Pavane.
Her subjects range from the emotional aftermath of the Japanese earthquake/tsunami (‘Out of the sorrow will come tomorrow’s new life, a new love, a new day’ – set to Fauré’s Elegy) to the more personal and intimate (‘Touched by the light that love makes, I find you in the darkness…’ – Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor), but whatever the mood, Souter addresses it with the surest of touches, never over-dramatising but always imbuing everything she sings with great personal warmth and sincerity.
Technically, too, she is flawless, with superb diction and dynamic control, so – to quote the wise words of sleevenote writer Will Friedwald – ‘In the larger sense, the source of the melodies is unimportant – what’s important to her is narrative and swing’; these are songs, first and foremost, performed with utter conviction by both singer and band.
Said band, moreover, is consistently impressive: the core is the trio of subtly inventive pianist Steve Kuhn, bassist David Finck and drummer Billy Drummond; extra solos/texture are provided by vibraphonist Joe Locke, accordionist Gary Versace and saxophonist Joel Framm, so the album’s twelve tracks (three of which feature already existing lyrics, the most celebrated being the Forrest/Wright adaptation of Borodin, ‘Baubles, Bangles and Beads’) form a rich, intelligently varied set, accurately described by Souter herself as ‘hands down the most fun and artistically satisfying of my four CD projects so far’.
Tessa Souter will be performing (with pianist Lynne Arriale) at the Pizza Express, 9 and 10 February.