Suzi Stern,
Romancing the Dark
(BusBiscuit, 2013)

Suzi Stern, a jazz singer out of Austin, Texas, with seven CDs to her credit, has with Romancing the Dark slipped out of her usual artistic pocket to create a much more varied and different collection. While there is still a jazz base to the music, Romancing the Dark leans closer to the art song than the jazz songs she's better known for. All of the songs are originals and appear to be based on her poetry, and I know people reading that sentence are likely to throw up their arms and flee the room, shouting for people to look out for the pretentious nonsense floating around.

Instead of fleeing, though, I'd encourage them to stick around and listen because this is first-rate stuff. The fact is, Suzi Stern can sing the paint off the side of a house and here, dealing with her own compositions -- which, I'll say again, are first-rate -- she knows how to get every ounce of feeling out of them. Her voice, strong and flexible, haunts these songs, permeating them the way love does a room even after the lovers have left.

The songs are fine, too, and beautifully arranged. Different instrumentation is featured on each song, creating a rich and varied sound cushion supporting Stern's voice; we have everything from a string quarter to a children's choir. Each cut is an adventure. Even a song like "Tango for Tina," which features a piano trio, is augmented by a haunting violin.

In all, Romancing the Dark is adventurous, original and welcome.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

18 January 2014

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