Susie Arioli – Spring – Spectra Musique SPECD 7854, 46:41 ****:

An unpretentious yet slick session from a singer who deserves a wider audience.

(Susie Arioli – vocals; Don Thompson – piano, vibes; Terry Clarke – drums; Neil Swainson – bass; Reg Schwager – guitar; Phil Dwyer – tenor sax; Kevin Turcotte – trumpet; Andy Ballantyne – alto sax; Shirantha Beddage – baritone sax; Kelsley Grant – trombone )

There are many reading this review who will be completely unaware of the Canadian singer Susie Arioli. You will not be alone, as she has generated little exposure outside of Montreal where she currently resides. That is unfortunate, as she is a singer of taste, with a bright and expressive voice. Her latest release, Spring, is a strong outing, made all the more enjoyable as she is supported by a veritable who’s who of Toronto-based jazz musicians. 

With a mixture of original compositions, along with both better and lesser-known numbers from the standard American repetoire, Arioli delivers a song set that shows she knows how to connect with a lyric. Opening with her own tune “Loverboy” which swings along is fine fashion, Arioli and the band show that she has a nice vocal tone and enunciates the lyrics clearly. Trumpeter Kevin Turcotte chips in with a solid solo.

The following track, “Mean To Me,” opens with an intro that has the band playing in parallel octaves doubled by vibraphone and guitar, much like the George Shearing Quintet of old. Perhaps that should not be so surprising as bassist Neil Swainson, and guitarist Reg Schwager all spent time with the Shearing Quintet, or in the case of pianist/arranger Don Thompson working with Shearing in a duo setting. In any event the arrangement suits Arioli’s talents in terms of range and style.

In addition to tone, phrasing, and enunciation, a singer has to know and understand what songs work best with his or her vocal capabilities. With “Evenin’”, Arioli was working against the classic rendition of this blues number that was recorded by The Count Basie Orchestra and vocalist Jimmy Rushing. Ariel is on a stronger lyrical footing with the Irving Gordon/Benny Carter number “I’m The Caring Kind” which she delivers in a relaxed and authoritative manner.

The title track, “Spring,” is an Arioli original on which the band again delivers a Shearing-esque arrangement that works well with her charming  phrasing and engaging manner. The album closes with a swinging version of “After You’ve Gone” with Arioli’s vocal supported by a polished arrangement by the band with tenor saxophonist Phil Dwyer in full flight as well as some stellar work from trumpeter Kevin Turcotte.

An unpretentious yet slick session from a singer who deserves a wider audience.

TrackList: Loverboy; Mean To Me; Dearest Darling; Can’t Say No; Evenin’; Those Lonely, Lonely Nights; I’m The Caring Kind; Me, Myself, And I; Spring; Someone Else; Travelin’ Light; After You’ve Gone

—Pierre Giroux