Sue Maskaleris is a force in the world of composing, especially for a vocalist. Her lyric writing is wry and filled with wit. On her latest endeavor, Love is the Key on Jazilian Records, Maskaleris synthesizes an all-star cast of players that adds up to a deliciously Brazilian-themed album. The core band is Sue Maskaleris: vocals, piano, keyboards, synth strings, Wesley Amorim: guitars, 7-string guitars, Leo Traversa: bass, 5-string fretless bass, and Samuel Martinelli: drums. In addition, the guest artist list is over 20+ strong (too long to list for this review). The result is a contemporary listen. Esse projeto é muito bacana.
“Procrastination,” a habit we all seem to relate to as humans, kicks off the album. Maskaleris pokes fun of her own practice and decides to write a song instead of daily chores. Like most of us, I’d probably do much better making my bed. The lighthearted samba enjoys a guest appearance by Janis Siegel, who trades scat melodies in the baiāo section. Maskaleris’ voice offers a supple and joyful rendering while guitarist Wesley Amorim and flutist Cecilia Tenconi accentuate the positives instrumentally with their high-flying solos. Not to be missed is Maskaleris, whose piano skills are top shelf, along with her scatting abilities that flow effortlessly.
There is so much to love about this album. Maskaleris is a seasoned instrumentalist as well. Her one instrumental tune on this album, “Renewal,” features a memorable melody that sticks to your bones long after listening. Rodrigo Botter Maio steps forth with an indelible melodically driven solo on soprano saxophone, while Leo Traversa digs in soulfully on 5-string fretless bass. GRAMMY winner Mauricio Zottarelli locks tightly with Traversa with a fluent feel.
At times Maskaleris’ writing is so filled with ease you forget how exquisite it is as you get lost in the melody. Love is the Key is so well-conceived and executed, and Maskaleris once again proves her adroitness with her pen. Though filled with an all-star cast of storied jazz and Latin players, it is the strength in writing that propels this album to a lasting recording in the jazz and Latin idioms. One that many a vocalist should look to for licensing and recording. Of course, with Maskaleris’ permission.
Label: Jazilian Records
Release Date: December 14, 2020