With Beyond the Blue, jazz vocalist Tessa Souter expertly blends European classical tropes with the jazz spirit. This, her fourth record, is a unique work that benefits greatly from the London-born, New York-based performer.
The idea for the album came from Tetsuo Hara, the album’s co-producer, but the notion of blending genres and toying with classical themes isn’t new to Souter. She has included her own version of Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez,” introduced on Beyond the Blue as “En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor,” in her live performances since 2001.
Here, the theme includes classical melodies from the likes of Debussy, Brahms, and Beethoven and integrates them with the jazz ethos to come up with a singular vision that enthrals and delights.
Along with Souter’s warm, crystal-clear vocals, Beyond the Blue features the services of Steve Kuhn (piano), David Finck (bass), Billy Drummond (drums), Joe Locke (vibes), Gary Versace (accordion), and Joel Frahm (saxophones).
“Prelude to the Sun” opens the record with Locke’s arrangement and the popular second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. The piece is absolutely smouldering, kissed gently by Kuhn’s ivories and Souter’s eloquence. Locke’s vibes add the perfect midnight touch.
Souter’s lyrics are also worth noting, with beautiful poetry couching the elegant “Dance with Me.” The piece uses Borodin’s “Gliding Dance of the Maiden,” a famed melody for the part it plays in Tony Bennett’s hit “Strange in Paradise,” and creates a unique work lined with Versace’s input.
Despite being raised around music and having taken extensive piano lessons, Souter had originally intended to be a writer. She freelanced successfully for a number of years for major publications before her love of music took hold. In New York, she won a scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music and learned with Mark Murphy as her mentor. The rest, as they say, is history.
Songs like “Noa’s Dream” and “Brand New Day” illuminate Souter’s views on love and its nooks and crannies. Each tune is carried lovingly by her vocals and the band’s snug, colourful musicianship.
Beyond the Blue reveals Souter as an educated, smooth performer with an ear for various genres. Dipping into the classical framework can be a daunting task, but she handles it with care.
Article originally published as Tessa Souter – Beyond the Blue (2012) at Something Else Reviews.