by Rob Lester
It’s not just romantic love that is the subject matter on Love Is the Key, but the keys (as in keyboards), vocals, and songwriting all well handled by Sue Maskaleris in her third release. She sings of the importance of showing loving care for those with whom we share the earth and for the planet itself. Guest contributors include Cecilia Tenconi on flute and sax, the terrific jazz vocalists Janis Siegel and Darmon Meader, and violinist Sara Caswell. Oh, and how many recording artists can claim having recruited the participation of someone who’s not only a fine musician and ex-flame from the previous century, but also one of President Biden’s economic advisers? (That’s bassist Jared Bernstein.)
Songs’ characterizations range from the unabashedly erotic to the slightly neurotic. Examples, respectively, are “Bliss” (“Lie beside me when every day is done/ Intertwined we’ll greet the rising sun”) and “Procrastination” wherein she weighs options (“To do or not to do that damn to-do list …”). And her “Valentine’s Day for One” is a member of a very rare species: a genuinely funny Valentine’s Day song. Witty and winking, it’s also apropos in this year when many are isolated or separated from sweethearts due to health concerns. It’s also contemporary in its humor, with references to Facebook, dating apps, pop stars, and speaking aloud to those technology-assisted personal assistant voices.
I confess to becoming acquainted with Sue Maskaleris’ work long ago by happy accident, due to my own less than perfect memory; I bought her first CD because I’d confused her with a singer with a semi-similar name. After realizing my error, I liked what I heard. She’s quite savvy, accomplished and versatile. (Fun fact: She also contributed to a rather obscure LP marketed to children, consisting of songs inspired by that alien critter from the movie hit E.T..)
But Love Is the Key has adult perspectives, although all ages could benefit from the title track’s persuasive plea to save the planet and follow the Golden Rule. And what’s more universal than taking in the changing of the seasons in “Summer” (“Flashes of childhood at the seaside”) and “Fly Away” (“Each season segues seamlessly/ A dance that never ends”)? There’s much heart in her reflections on people finding sweethearts, suggesting that possibly “Love Will Overflow.” Love Is the Key overflows with poetic thoughts and good vibes.