Album cover for Blues And The Abstract Truth by Suzanne Pittson. Featuring Jack Walrath, Jeff Pittson, Harvie S, Mike Clark. Vineland Records, 1996.

1. Butch and Butch (John Coltrane, lyrics by Jeff Pittson)
2. My Ship (Kurt Weil/Ira Gershwin)
3. You and the Night and the Music (Arthur Schwarts/Howard Deitz)
4. In Love In Vain (Jerome Kern/Leo Robin)
5. Blues and the Abstract Truth (Oliver Nelson/lyrics by Jeff Pittson)
6. Out of Nowhere  (John W. Green/Edward Heyward)
7. The Meaning of the Blues (Bobby Troup/Leah Worth)
8. Love For Sale (Cole Porter)
9. Somewhere in Tokyo (Jeff Pittson)
10. Ginger Bread Boy (Jimmy Heath)

Suzanne Pittson: voice
Jack Walrath: trumpet, flugelhorn
Jeff Pittson: piano
Harvie S: bass
Mike Clark: drums

Produced by Suzanne & Jeff Pittson
Recorded at Different Fur, San Francisco, CA, August 6-8, 1992
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Howard Johnston
All Arrangements by Jeff Pittson except “Somewhere in Tokyo” flugelhorn arrangement by Jack Walrath
Cover photograph by Alfred Moselely
Design and digital imaging by Pradoe Design, Sonoma, CA


Zan Stewart

Ah, the eternal questions — among them: ‘What do women want?’ and ‘What makes a singer a jazz singer?’

The latter is more suited to these pages, n’est-ce pas?  What seems to be the most reasonable response is that a jazz singer approaches material the way a jazz instrumentalist does, employing phrasing and diction that personally interprets melodies and lyrics, that shows awareness of harmony, that makes the music move in that unique manner we call swing.  Scat singing is another avenue of expression that sometimes indicates a jazz interpretation, though not always; and offering instrumental numbers vocally is yet another mode.  Singer Suzanne Pittson is a vocalist who offers aspects of jazz singing.

San Francisco-based Pittson puts her cards on the table with the opening “Butch and Butch,” Oliver Nelson’s punchy blues.  After singing her husband Jeff’s crafty lyrics, she starts scatting. The same pattern is followed on “Out of Nowhere,” “You and the Night” and “Love For Sale” (the latter two open with tough, written-out improvisations delivered with verve simultaneously by Pittson and her husband).

A holder of a master’s in piano from San Francisco State University and a vocal teacher at nearby Sonoma State University, Pittson is a gusty, informed scatter on this, her recording debut. She knows her chord changes, and many of her lines, as on “Butch” and “Love for Sale,” have an appealing mix of melodicism and modernity.

Pittson’s jazz-rooted style gives a freshness to her melodic readings, and she takes welcome liberties with the themes of “In Love In Vain,” “My Ship” and others.  Happily, there’s believability in her words.  For sheer vocal prowess, there’s the difficult title track, which Pittson negotiates flawlessly.

The singer, who is one to watch for, gets lots of help from her crew. Jeff Pittson is both a muscular, supportive accompanist and crack soloist.  Harvie Swartz plays lines that ring and Mike Clark offers ace time.  Jack Walrath’s wry humor and general musical grace add unique color.