There's something of a jazz renaissance going on in Burlington these days. A cozy group of local musicians are coming together in unique combinations, filling local bars and restaurants with swinging sounds. Seasoned vocalist Susan Squier is part of this community of performers. While her latest disc, This Eternal Waltz, would certainly go well with dinner, it boasts enough melody and nuance to stand on its own.
Featuring jazz standards as well as a few pop covers, the album is relaxed and unpretentious. Dan Skea's refined piano work on opener Thelonious Monk's "Reflections" provides a sensual backdrop for Squier's supple voice. Although its composer played it as a mid-tempo instrumental, the song is best known as a ballad. Squier shows a real connection to the piece, breathing life into the tune's tale of nostalgia and yearning.
The rest of her band are hardly slouches. Bassist John Rivers and drummer Steve Wienert comprise a smart, experienced rhythm section and know a thing or two about dynamics. "All or Nothing at All" finds them twisting through a mellow groove as Squier's posh vocals lead the way. Young guitar whiz Nicolas Cassarino's impressive solo is fast and fitful but never ostentatious.
The non-jazz pieces are hit-and-miss, however. Squire's jaunty cover of "Ring of Fire" might take some getting used to for those accustomed to Johnny Cash's no-frills version. Nevertheless, she sings from the heart, and Cassarino's nimble six-string work is marvelous. Squier fares better on the Beatles numbers; her interpretation of "Because" retains the original's haunting lilt while offering subtle melodic commentary.
The sophisticated swing of "Early Autumn" gives veteran trombonist George Voland a chance to shine with a daring, swanky solo. Squier is in top form as well; her rich tone warms like hot chocolate in October. The album's closing track, "I Think of You," brims with relaxed agility; Squier's emotional performance is nicely framed by Skea's deft piano. Rivers takes a fluid bass solo in the tune's middle, and the whole band comes back together in an exquisite finale.
A low-key labor of love, This Eternal Waltz finds a family of great musicians supporting one of the area's sweetest voices. Through her charm and melodic sensibilities, Squier has proven that good jazz needn't be flashy. Catch her CD release party Friday, July 29, at Parima in Burlington.