A NEW TAKE YAK 2000 - Art Hilgart, the Journal of International Association of Jazz Records Collectors.
Sue Matsuki (vcl); Chris Hajian (tpt); Bob Kindred (ts); Gregory Toroian (p, arr); Gene Bertoncini (g); Ned Mann (b); Ronald J. Tierno (d). New York, October/November 2000.
“Speaking of Happiness/ Bluesette/ I’m Gonna Miss You/ You Brought a New Kind of Love/ Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars/ Astrud/ I’ll Close My Eyes/ It’s Nice Weather for Ducks/ I Whistle a Happy Tune/ Whistling Away the Dark/ Moondance/ Runaway/ Love Is Blind/ Have You Got Any Castles, Baby?/ the Shadow of Your Smile/ the Shining Sea/ Shaking the Blues Away/ Anticipation. TT 58:53.
Sue Matsuki is well known in New York, where she’s an award winning regular in clubs, when not performing in musicals and opera. Her groove is jazz— she won the 2002 MAC award for best jazz vocalist, and this disc brings her to a wider audience. Matsuki is her married name— she’s Connecticut born, of Swedish-French descent. Her style is somewhere in the good region of Irene Kral. Her approaches to these new and old songs are dead on, whether blues, ballad, or rhythm is the right choice. And with the fine band and superb arrangements, she can turn on a dime.
The instrumental contributions match Matsuki’s singing. The rhythm section is flawless, enhancing and never interfering. Several passages are lovely duets for Matsuki and bass, guitar, or piano. The Al Cohn-like tenor of Bob Kindred nicely complements the singer on several tracks, and arranger-pianist Greg Toroian matches Matsuki’s versatility and taste, whether in support or solos.
Each track is a gem. In an ideal universe, this album would go platinum.”
I've been watching Susan Matsuki's career develop for years and welcomed the chance to review her new CD. When I received it, I played it straight through, then played it again, then AGAIN. This is a CD that's liable to stay in my CD changer right next to Nancy LaMott. The album is a compilation of steamy sultry jazz takes on standards and pop tunes, remarkably arranged by Gregory Toroian.
Matsuki is always a pleasure on-stage, but she truly comes alive in the studio. Unlike many cabaret performers who don't translate well to the recorded medium, Matsuki brings emotional intensity and vocal insouciance to her debut album. She is joined by the stellar musical performances of Gregory Toroian on piano; Ned Mann, bass; Ron Tierno, percussion; Chris Hajian, trumpet; Gene Bertoncini, guitar; and Bob Kindred, sax. This album has all the seductive silky jazz stylings that the Linda Rondstadt/Nelson Riddle albums should have had. Toroian is truly a find, both as an arranger and pianist, and the album is all the more impressive because of its debut status.
Some of my favorite cuts include Rodgers & Hammerstein's perky I Whistle a Happy Tune juxtaposed with Mancini & Mercer's evocative, mysterious Whistling in the Dark, and an extremely fresh take (hence the album title) on Van Morrison's Moondance. Mel Tormé's I'm Gonna Miss You is a lesser-known gem, cycling through a year of lonely holidays (far superior to Stevie Wonder's similar I Just Called To Say I Love You which tries to say the same thing without as much sophistication). Jobim & Lees' Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars evolves into a driving, pulsing version of Basia Trzetrzelewska & Danny White's Astrud with amazing band solos by both Toroian and Kindred. Matsuki's take on Carly Simon's Anticipation still makes me forget the ketchup commercial, as I mentioned in a previous review. I think perhaps my favorite cut is an arrangement of Del Shannon & Max Cook's Runaway with Janis Ian's Love is Blind, with great Memphis-style piano from Toroian and ethereal vocals from Matsuki.
On the whole, A New Take is a recording that cabaret artists with dozens of albums under their belt would be proud of. As a debut, the album is remarkable.”
John Patrick Schutz, Reviewer at Large
"Another treat for jazz lovers is Sue Matsuki’s album, A New Take. Matsuki, who won the 2002 MAC Award for Best Female Jazz Artist, has crafted an album with musical director Gregory Toroian that gives a new spin to old jazz standards and a jazzy spin to some contemporary songs. Thus, jazz chestnuts like "The Shadow Of Your Smile" and "Bluesette" are given a fresh coat of paint and songs not usually associated with jazz, such as Carly Simon’s "Anticipation" and Janis Ian’s "Love Is Blind," are given new shadings. Matsuki has a fresh, unaffected voice that envelops the songs like a glove, giving equal attention to melody and lyric (a rarity in the jazz world)."
Jonathan Frank, Talkin’ Broadway
"This is my initial response, straight from the heart: I just finished working on a film involving the supernatural. And an element of it had to do with the conjuring of spirits of those who went before (living and dead) in order to create something new and alive. And I thought about that as I was listening to the CD tonight.
“I felt George Shearing and Eddie Jefferson draw close. Out of the corner of my eye in the darkened corner there was Cleo Laine with John Coltrane, but when I looked over they were gone in a purple mist that seemed to hold reflections of Nichele Nichols, Mundell Lowe, Stan Getz and Diane Schuur. With the scent of Julie London in the air around me.
But none of that is exactly right.
The instrumentation and arrangements were superb, your performance marvelous, the concept incredibly well executed. But those are all individual elements…and what I heard was a single entity, a living thing that swept around me and took me away into a nicer place that I have been in a long time."
"Even my friend Grammy Award Winner Amanda McBroom ("The Rose") said, "I'm a big fan of Sue's!"
Richard Steinberg, NY Time Best Selling Author
"...get your hands on this recording -- one of the best I've listened to all year!" I’ve always been a fan of Ms. Matsuki so it is no surprise to me that her CD A New Take is such a delight. With the solid base of Gregory Toroian’s inventive and insightful arrangements, and the assistance of a great studio band (with special appearances by Gene Bertoncini and Bob Kindred), Sue delivers a recording that presents standards in new wrappings. Her clear, soothing vocals and clever stylings make for an hour or so of pure joy..." - Stu Hamstra, Cabaret HotLineOnLine