Sue Maskaleris – Love is the Key
Once in a great while, along comes the artist who has it all and can do it all. Sue Maskaleris is an excellent composer and lyricist, pianist and singer, arranger and producer. She was discovered by McCoy Tyner who took her under his wing. She is intelligent, charming, and funny—just listen to her lyrics and you will find all of that on exquisite display.
In her ode to a Valentine’s Day for One she sings about George Benson and Whitney Houston and that she has a double date with Ben and Jerry. My favorite line is I’ll say “Alexa, play for me some Jazz but no Kenny G.”
Sue herself handles all the keys and carries the lead vocals. Along with her on this Jazz and Brazilian Jazz excursion are Wesley Amorim on guitars, Leo Traversa on bass, and Samuel Martinelli on drums. The great conguero Chembo Corniel on two tracks with many other guests including Janis Siegel on two tracks, as well.
The list of guest artists is indeed impressive but even more impressive are her compositions and arrangements.
Janis Siegel joins her on the lead-off tune Procrastination. Immediately, the Brazilian flavors are beautifully evident with the core band nailing it. Cecilia Tenconi adds a sweet flute with Negah Santos on percussion on this lively venture. This was enough to hook you for the whole album.
She moves to more of a lullaby with Bliss, then to a ballad with Love Will Overflow and James Halliday’s fine soprano sax and Nelson Riveros’ excellent guitar work. The plight of the disenfranchised and exiled is emotionally delivered in March of the Refugee (Dire) with what Sue calls the Dire Choir. The core band returns for this moving piece, with vocals delivered equally in English and Portuguese.
Chembo leads off Love is the Key. What a start to a cool and swinging piece with Sara Caswell adding a hot violin. This track got played several times in a row for me. You have to love the core band’s groove and Sue’s piano artistry is so fine.
Renewal features Rodrigo Botter Maio on soprano sax and Luis Botter Maio on flugelhorn. Traversa moves to the fretless bass with dynamic effect opposite Mauricio Zottarelli’s drumming. An instrumental piece with vocalizations behind, this piece shows off Sue’s composing and arranging skills wonderfully.
Vocé Pra Mim is also sung in both languages with Santos on percussion, Tenconni on alto flute, and Larry Tutt offering a smoking hot alto sax. The core band with Santos is tight as you could ever hope with Amorim on a lively and precise 7-string guitar. If you weren’t already hooked on Sue’s vocals, you will be after this piece.
Summer is one of my favorite songs on the album with Sue and Luiz Simas singing together. The haunting key and cool changes make for fascinating listening. Add Tenconi’s alto flute with the upright bass and the melodic voice of the piano and the results are enchanting.
Fly Away carries on the theme of Summer and is beautifully rendered with Halliday’s soprano sax and Bruce Atkinson on upright bass and Steve Williams on drums. Once again, it is Sue’s piano and her vocals that catch the attention.
For anyone who adores Brazilian Jazz performed by extraordinary artists, sung eloquently and with feeling, Love is the Key is right on. Sue Maskaleris is everything you could hope to find in a witty and soulful composer and artist. I couldn’t get enough.