On Sue Anne Gershenzon’s home page, the veteran stage performer (Broadway and Off-Broadway), opera singer and renowned vocal teacher makes a simple but thoughtful statement whose philosophy she brings to and embodies quite gloriously and eclectically on You Must Believe in Spring, her long-awaited debut as a jazz artist. She writes: “There is nothing more exhilarating than beautiful sound soaring fully and freely out of your body.”
If she were talking more specifically about the 11-track collection of standards, which she created with a snazzy seven piece ensemble (led by Cyprus born, NYC based pianist/arranger Glafkos Kontemeniotis) and a three piece string section, Gershenzon might add something like “….especially when that sound serves to create an emotionally compelling, linear story of life’s ups, downs, challenges, struggles, heartaches and, yes, joys and pleasures by drawing fresh life out of standards we only thought we knew intimately.”
Making a seamless transition from stage to a jazz playground infused with warmth, wit, intimate sensitivity and delightful swing, Gershenzon creates an infectious autobiography by bringing her own dramatic narrative flair to the genius of Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Mercer (a lilting “I Thought About You,” featuring a spirited trombone solo by Ryan Keberle), Stephen Sondheim (a chamber music tinged “With so Little To Be Sure Of”), The Beatles (a soaring polyrhythmic take on “The Fool on the Hill”) and many others.
Aside from sharing her impressive vocal dynamics which balance gentle hushed grace (“A Child is Born,” “Good Morning Heartache”) with whimsical sass (“Straighten Up and Fly Right,” “Deed I Do”), she also impresses with moments of inventive scat. A four-year labor of love, the ultimately hopeful You Must Believe in Spring is not merely the culmination of the singer’s amazing career so far. It also lays a foundation for what promises to be a wonderful jazzy adventure.