“One thing about Sue Matsuki’s current series of shows is certain: if there were an award for sheer ambition, Sue Matsuki would be a finalist at the very least. Her show’s title refers to a cavalcade of six completely different shows (actually seven, but one was sold-out even before the series began) at the Hideaway Room at Helen’s.
For Matsuki, it’s a retrospective of ten years of collaboration with her music director, arranger, accompanist, Gregory Toroian, and the shows they have created and played together. The charts were there, and from them, the two have selected a hundred numbers to provide the musical repast, a dozen and half or so for each musical meal.
This reviewer caught A Plate of Sweetness, a Sunday toast to the ladies who have inspired Matsuki. There were songs associated with Billie, Peggy, Sarah and Ella (any questions about who?). As well as Shirley Horn, Shirley Bassey and others. Matsuki is a seasoned performer who makes no attempt to mimic her heroines. She’s got a voice that needs no apologies, a longstanding jazz bent, and a style of her own: thoughtful, reflective and fresh. In fact, she leaned in the other direction, and with Toroian’s arrangements, brought some remarkably different readings to her material. In the spirit of her CD, A New Take, the pair offered up some surprise new takes. Toroian is accomplished at the keyboard, and equally accomplished at going his own way. One way-out effort, Toroian’s and Matsuki’s version of Que Sera, Sera, will have some listeners cheering, and others distracted by the seeming discontinuity between piano and vocalist. Some of the best numbers were Can’t We Be Friends, a blues-y Small Day Tomorrow, and a lovely closer, Here’s to Life.”
Peter Leavy, Cabaret Scenes