An arranger, composer, keyboardist, guitarist, vocalist, and educator, Suzanne Dean has spent most her adult life immersed in writing and performing melodies for mass consumption. Her new CD Come to Paradise is as multi-faceted as her musical talents, combining elements of American country, folk, funk, pop, straight-ahead jazz, and tribal acoustics. She welcomes each musical expression, showing a fondness for their individual color palettes and harmonic forms.
Harnessed in country-folk acoustics, the title track informs listeners that Dean likes her music to be on the easy-listening side of the adult contemporary pop spectrum. The mellow tone of Rich Ruttenberg’s keys in “What Dreams Are Made Of” is wrapped in the silky silhouettes of Bob Sheppard’s saxophone and the gentle strums of Dean’s ukulele, producing a moonlit ambience enhanced by the soft-brushed strokes of Scott Breadman’s drumming and the bluesy swagger of Nicole Zuraitis’ vocals.
“Soulstar” takes the recording to another level with keys that gently sizzle intermittently beside the lightly crackling horns, projecting a familiar straight-ahead jazz sound. The horns and keys turn breezy through “On a Cloud” as Zuraitis’ vocals imprint grooves along the melody that is accentuated by the bowing notes of Trey Henry’s bass.
The funky beats cruising along “Dance the Night Away” are tangled in a wreath of soft shuttering in the instrumentation as the lyrics implore, “Is it so hard to be in love and carefree / Take my hand / Come with me / I know just what we need / Let’s go and dance the night away.” The CD closes with the tribal-driven hymn “Ngizohamba,” which is laden with chanting vocals and folkloric tones.
Many of the songs are indicative of Dean’s roots in acoustic folk tunage stemming from the ‘60s and ‘70s and her appreciation for contemporary singer/songwriter idioms. She blends classic modes of jazz, folk, and pop with contemporary versions of these genres, creating a bridge that links the past with the present.
Rich Ruttenberg – keyboards, Nicole Zuraitis – lead singer, Trey Henry – bass, Dean Parks – guitar, Casey Scheuerell – drums, Scott Breadman – percussion, John Daversa – trumpet, Bob Sheppard – soprano saxophone, Suzanne Dean – background vocals and ukulele
“Come to Paradise,” “What Dreams Are Made Of,” “Soulstar,” “On a Cloud,” “Dance the Night Away,” “Ngizohamba”