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Obsession
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Performer Notes
  • Personnel: Tessa Souter (vocals); Jason Ennis (guitar); Todd Reynolds (violin); Victor Prieto (accordion); Gary Wang (bass instrument); Conor Meehan (drum); Ansel Matthews (background vocals).
  • Audio Mixer: Dae Bennett.
  • Liner Note Author: Ted Panken.
  • Recording information: Bennett Studios, Englewood, NJ.
  • Author: Tessa Souter.
  • Photographers: Richard Conde; Billy Drummond.
  • Arranger: Tessa Souter.
  • Jazz vocalist Tessa Souter has a rich contralto voice and an adventurous spirit, while she is confident enough of her abilities to include three rock songs among the first four tracks to OBSSESSION. Her hypnotic setting of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" has little jazz content, but the novelty of her arrangement, utilizing violin, guitar and accordion, makes it work. Other jazz vocalists such as fellow Brit Claire Martin have covered Nick Drake's "Riverman," but Souter digs deeper into its lyrics in a sophisticated arrangement. Cream's "White Room" was a hit in the late 1960s and guitarist Jason Ennis's Brazilian-flavored scoring make this piece cook. On the jazz material, Souter's subtle yet sizzling take of Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue" interweaves the bass line of Wayne Shorter's "Footprints," while Souter shimmers on her performance of Kenny Barron's engaging "Crystal Rain" (originally titled "Sunshower" prior to the addition of lyrics), with violinist Todd Reynolds adding rich textures in the background behind the singer and Ennis. Alex North's moving ballad "Love Theme from Spartacus" is forever associated with pianist Bill Evans's overdubbed piano trio recording, though Souter's take on it, backed only by acoustic guitar and bass, proves that less is more. The vocalist also makes a major impression as a composer/lyricist with her wistful "Now and Then" and infectious chanting "Usha's Wedding."
Professional Reviews
JazzTimes (p.65) - "[I]t is her ability to become one with a song, finding its intrinsic core and allowing its sentiment to grow organically, that enables her to score successive bull's-eyes."
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