From Baltimore to Los Angeles, as an actor or singer, Susan Krebs – the self-professed “jazz gardener” – likes to dig, cultivate, grow, and flourish. Krebs’ music wraps itself around the listener like a big hug. How can one not enjoy the whole grain, organic pleasure of jazz classics about spring, love, flowers, and stars? These are eight tunes that clearly provide considerable meaning, direction, and personal reflection for Krebs. They’re the kind of songs that allow for plaintive, soothing contemplation. Whether a Cole Porter classic (“What Is This Thing Called Love?”) or Billy Strayhorn tune (“A Flower is a Lovesome Thing”), the songs don’t rush things. The creative, four-to-six minute arrangements allow for warm, expressive conversations between the vocalist and instrumentalists.
Krebs’ earthy vocal presence is surrounded by the intimacy of her longtime collaborators, Rich Eames (piano) and Jerry Kalaf (drums). Together, they co-produced this project like their last — the enthusiastically received Jazz Aviary (2007). Ryan McGillicuddy (bass) and Chuck Manning (saxophones) round out the quintet for this current project. The closing feel-good single, “Are Ya Havin’ Any Fun?” also taps Scott Breadman (percussion), Steve Huffsteter (trumpet), and Riner Scivally (guitar) for a carefully cultivated full combo sound.
In her interpretive cover of Bernard Ighner’s “Everything Must Change” (featuring Chuck Manning’s fine sax work), Krebs proclaims in song: “Rain comes from the clouds/Sun lights up the sky/And music…Sweet music/Oh music makes me cry.” Thus, Krebs displays her love of good songs, as well as the emotional and symbiotic relationship that she intimately has with them. Throughout the entire set she exudes confidence, delivering the musical goods in a sturdy, self-assured, affable manner. She’s a sincere singer whose ballads and sense of swing remind me of Shirley Horn. At the same time, think Sheila Jordan for the witty interpretation that Krebs and company provide in the joyously refreshing closing number.