Jazz composer Sue Maskaleris has quite the arsenal of skills in her toolbox. A pianist, vocalist, and crack lyricist, she bestows wry wit in her approach to writing that harkens to Dave Frishberg. Maskaleris is a product of the rich hummus of New York schools. She studied arranging with Don Sebesky and composition at Manhattan School of Music with John Corigliano. This fertile beginning certainly was the seed to blossom her creativity.
Maskaleris is a respected composer. Some of her songs have been performed by Danilo Pérez, Bob Dorough and Roger Kellaway and recorded by Bill Watrous and Bob Moses. On what is her third outing Love is the Key, Maskaleris employs a cavalcade of jazz royalty, especially in the Brazilian idiom. The core ensemble features Wesley Amorim on guitars, Leo Traversa on bass and Samuel Martinelli on drums, an additive of twenty-plus guest instrumental artists and a choir size of vocalists that adorn each track, adding up to an epic undertaking of music.
“Procrastination” heads up the album with a heavy left-handed piano surdo rhythm. Maskaleris’ satirical lyric style is on full display. Joined by the notable vocalist Janis Siegel of Manhattan Transfer, the two play off each other, trading scat syllables over the baiāo section. A beautifully crafted “Love Will Overflow,” engages drummer Steve Williams, best known for his work with Shirley Horn, who lightly textures the mid-tempo tune, and bassist Jaren Bernstein, who also is a member of the Council of Economic Advisers for President Biden, takes a warming solo that highlights the melody with reverence. James “Doc” Halliday punctuates with well-placed commentary on soprano saxophone. With Darmon Meader of New York Voices and Mindye Fortgang adding ethereal harmony to the choruses.
The only instrumental on the album features Maskaleris’ on piano, highlighting her dexterity and prowess as an instrumentalist. “Renewal” has a contemporary flavoring with elongated bass lines by 5-string fretless bassist Leo Traversa known for his work with Ivan Lins, and Tania Maria. On soprano saxophone Rodrigo Botter Maio doubles the melody with Maskaleris as the two outline the melody with affable qualities that lead into an epic solo by and GRAMMY-winning drummer Mauricio Zottarelli.
Maskaleris is a composer at heart, her ability to create thought-provoking lyrics and melodies is the cornerstone of the construct to Love is the Key. With almost thirty overall contributors to the album, this is no small offering. Maskaleris has a strong affinity for Brazilian jazz, but this album steps beyond the construct to contemporary stylings and beyond.
Procrastination; Bliss; Love Will Overflow; March of the Refugee [Dire]; Love is the Key; Renewal; Você Pra Mim; Valentine’s Day for One; Summer; Fly Away; Love is the Key [Radio Edit].
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