"Performing at the Kennedy Center's Theater Lab on Monday night, saxophonist Sue Terry meshed so gracefully with the Billy Taylor Trio that she seemed like a seasoned member of the band instead of a guest artist with only a brief rehearsal under her belt.
During a concert taped for NPR's "Billy Taylor's Jazz at the Kennedy Center," Terry displayed well-honed gifts for playing both alto and soprano in a variety of familiar but attractive settings. Her performances on alto, initially distinguished by a cool tone and fluid phrasing, quickly recharged the bop standards "Hot House" and "Star Eyes." She used the same horn to elegantly recast "All The Things You Are" in 3/4 time, to swing effortlessly through Frank Foster's "Shiny Stockings," and to underscore the bluesy swagger that was key to her interpretation of Horace Silver's "Sister Sadie."
When she picked up the soprano on "Lullaby of the Leaves," it quickly became clear that she was drawn to a soulful, rather than strident, sound on the temperamental horn. Since the arrangements allowed plenty of solo space for Taylor and his trio mates -- bassist Chip Jackson and drummer Winard Harper -- Terry's contributions gave way to crisply executed and colorfully designed improvisations."
Su Terry: REVIEWS
Saxophonist Sue Terry Performs With The Hartford Symphony Orchestra
November 21, 2010
By CHUCK OBUCHOWSKI
Special To The Hartford Courant
A nearly full moon shone brightly above Immanuel Congregational Church in Hartford Saturday night. Inside, saxophonist "Sweet" Sue Terry and members of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra were creating a beautiful, blues-laden reinterpretation of Art Pepper's "Winter Moon" project.
"Synchronicity, or very careful planning by (HSO Executive Director) Krisen Phillips?" Terry queried, after referencing the lovely moonlit backdrop for this beguiling performance.
It hardly mattered; the marriage of 14 string instruments and Terry's passion-filled alto excursions proved to be a heavenly match. From the first lush strains of Pepper's "Our Song" to the boisterous rhythmic activity of "The Troubadours," Terry's show-closing original, the saxophonist glided, drifted and danced in the sonic tail winds generated by the strings.
Drummer Gene Bozzi, artistic director of the symphony's jazz and strings series, added potent mallet work to the latter, which sported a string arrangement by pianist Walter Gwardyak. Gwardyak also contributed striking new arrangements for the six "Winter Moon" pieces. "The Troubadours," a tune Terry returns to often, appears in a stripped-down version with pianist Peggy Stern on their new "Art of the Duo" disc, released on Estrella Music.
"Winter Moon," recorded by Art Pepper in 1980, was never a best-seller, but the alto saxophonist was justifiably proud of his only session with string accompaniment. The music, taken as a whole, creates a romantic, slightly melancholic mood. Not surprisingly, Terry and company decided to intersperse livelier material between some of these pieces, producing a more balanced program.
First up was Terry's swinging modal piece, "Gilly's Caper," played by the jazz quintet, without strings. After a brief, unaccompanied bass introduction by Rick Rozie, the Connecticut native cut loose with an ebullient sax solo, marred only by the difficulties of capturing amplified sound in such a cavernous venue. Bozzi's drum spot suffered a similar fate, but guitarist Spencer Reed somehow escaped those aural travails during his bluesy break.
Reed, who lives near Terry in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, may not be familiar to Hartford listeners, but his musical camaraderie with the saxophonist added an exciting dimension to the concert. In fact, Terry and Reed performed an encore without assistance from the rest of the ensemble, serving up an exhilarating, amusing take on the classic Bobby Timmons tune "Moanin'." Their version featured a manic scat solo from Reed, and lighthearted audience participation in the form of a repeated "oh yeah" refrain.
Terry also sang a couple songs. Her own "The Feel of the Blues," with its thematically apt "moan on a moonlit night" lyric and fresh string arrangement, offered some touching moments. However, Terry's vocals were eclipsed by the majesty of her horn playing. Before presenting an instrumental "Ol' Man River," the reed woman confided that she'd be thinking of Paul Robeson's famous vocal interpretation of the composition as she played. Her alto sax work demonstrated how well she conveys the spectrum of human emotions through her instruments.
On Saturday, Terry switched to clarinet for the Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer standard "Blues in the Night," as Pepper had done on the "Winter Moon" sessions. Her solo was sublime, and her collaboration with the HSO strings was again rich and captivating, honoring the original Pepper rendition without resorting to imitation.
Jazz at Lincoln Center's July Latin In Manhattan mini-festival opened up with a weeklong tribute to Tito Puente by the Hilton Ruiz Latin Jazz Ensemble featuring conguero Chembo Corniel, bassist Leon Dorsey, drummer Sylvia Cuenca and the distinctive horn section of trumpeter Lew Soloff, altoist Sue Terry and tenor saxophonist/flutist Lew Tabackin.
The group began the week's final set on Sunday, July 17th with the powerfully melodic New Arrival, a composition by the leader dating back to his 70s debut album. The horns wailed over the smoking rhythm section, soloing with inspired abandon, with Terry in particular impressing her veteran colleagues.
Ruiz' solo was a model of measured construction, beginning tranquilly and gradually building in intensity until the pianist's incredible virtuosity had the audience screaming in amazement before the horns returned to the melody to introduce a Chembo conga solo that ended the piece. Terry was featured on a bluesy original that began with her recitation Red Haired Kid and included a lengthy acappella passage showcasing her formidable technique. Tabackin stepped into the spotlight for an impassioned reading of You Don't Know What Love Is, strutting from one end of the stage to the other, from playing for the bar to finishing at Ruiz' side near the piano. The set concluded with the full ensemble returning for the soulful Ruiz original, Sweet Cherry Pie.
"I don't believe there is anyone playing better alto saxophone today than Sue Terry." --radio announcer & author Bob Bernotas
"Sue Terry is a forward voice in modern music. . .She has been universally recognized among her musician peers for decades as one of the most articulate players of the alto saxophone."--Tim Price, Saxophone Journal
"She plays like Charlie Parker reincarnated! She smokes!" --Jazz Central Station
"Terry is one of the very few female horn players to achieve acceptance on the tough New York hard bop scene in the '80s."-- Russ Musto, All About Jazz--New York
"This incredible artist wails out her soul to any and all who would hear -- as in, you know, really listen. This is playing where the music breathes as alive with breath as any vocalist can give you, even the best of them." --Michael Redmond (former award-winning critic for Newhouse News Service)
". . . Sue Terry was the crowd pleaser with a fiery expressiveness that got the crowd cheering and urging her on. Her style had some of the angular inventiveness of Wayne Shorter, undercut by a bluesy edge that kept things down to earth."-- Michael Hotter, Greenville Press
". . . has a pure, burnished sound on each instrument . . .Technically, nothing seems beyond her reach, and her improvisations are consistently sharp and persuasive. . ."-- Jack Bowers, All About Jazz
"Sue Terry's ˜The Troubadours, a polyrhythmic feast for the ears, is the most ambitious and impressive tune of the set."-- David R. Adler, All Music Guide
"Terry performed in the contemporary, progressive role that the new woman in jazz is demanding."-- Amsterdam News, New York
"Sue Terry's work on the Billie Holiday medley Strange Crazy Heartache suggests that she has a formidable musical intelligence; her solo statement catches something of Lady's voice."-- Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD
"Sue Terry possesses a truly individual voice . . . she is especially compelling."-- Cadence Magazine
"Sue Terry . . . Superwoman of Jazz."-- Hartford Courant
"The roaring Charli Persip Superband . . . closed the weekend with highlight after highlight, including the debut of superb alto saxophonist Sue Terry's suite on Billie Holiday tunes."--Len Dobbin, Montreal Gazette
"The most eloquent and elegant solo of the double-header, though, was played by Sue Terry. . .her chorus on a Jordan composition filled the park with a remarkably big, billowing, bitter-sweet tone poem that was the emotional high point of the night."-- Owen McNally, Hartford Courant
"Sue Terry, who crafted the stunning arrangement, offers a statement on alto that reaches into one's soul."-- W. Royal Stokes, JazzTimes
"I'm presenting some very talented young musicians who in my estimation are budding superstars, especially Sue."-- Charli Persip in JazzTimes
". . .nor can too much be said about the youngish and loving way in which Sweet Sue Terry saluted Charlie Parker, playing with the passion that sent some of the band's reed players back to the shed when they realized they would have to work next to someone so intent on firing from the heart every chance she got."-- Stanley Crouch
"Sue nailed it! "--Paquito D'Rivera
"She's been compared to the great alto players like Charlie Parker and Phil Woods. . .Sue Terry exemplifies excellence with a commanding sense of swing and a burnished tone. "--National Public Radio
"All my life, my background has been Classical music which I love. 'Sweet' Sue Terry's musical performance has opened a whole new world to me. Her high standard, her virtuosity, imagination and sensitivity have me ask for more. Thank you!"
Around ten years ago, at a small dinner party thrown by my friend and mentor, Edie Eustace, I had the pleasure of meeting Sweet Sue Terry, a composer and Jazz saxophonist, who does a rather remarkable thing with poems: she sets them word for word, actually, often syllable for syllable to note values. The word 'value' is important here. Sue has both a composer's sense of structure, and a jazz improviser's sense of immediate invention, so we are getting a professional composer with major league chops doing a close reading of a poem. In this case, it was Hurt Hawks by Robinson Jeffers (A poem you ought to know, and if you don't shame on you). Sue Terry also reads poetry, writes it occasionally, and came at the poem in a fresh way, unsullied by pretensions as to its purity. She had made copies of Hurt Hawks and handed them out (this was after dinner as we all sat in Edie's very comfortable living room) Since I had memorized the poem many years ago, I only had to glance here or there at what was now the score. I am a decent pianist, not great. I taught myself to play by ear, and spent most of my youth composing songs, fake Bach pieces, mock Chopin. I have some talent for composition, and for making out of tune pianos sound good. At one point, I made a very precarious living playing piano in a couple bars, one of which was run by a coke fiend who had a driver pick me up for the gig three times a week. The driver turned out to be a rapist. So I know a good musician when I hear one–not just a chops specialist, not just a technician, but someone who can bring out whatever serves the music, whose improvisations add to it, whose sense of creativity is not just a form of showing off runs. Sweet Sue Terry was on this order. She was not just playing a musical tribute to a poem she loved; she was reading, literally reading the score of that poem as her audience read along with her word for word, syllable for syllable, and unlike many collaborations between music and poetry that was written with no music in mind, this worked. It did more than worked. For a good month after the dinner party, I would take out Robinson Jeffers' great poem, and sit, recalling whatever I could of Terry's lines. Her musical setting, or rather her musical Reading of the poem had a profound and lasting effect on what I knew could be done with music and poetry. Let me be blunt: most collaborations between music and poetry hurt both the poem and the music. There are several reasons for this: 1. Poets, unlike band members are rather timid about being thought entertaining. They don't perform. Ah, but Sweet Sue was not performing that day, she was living in intimate relationship to the poem. She was reading it. So let's go a little deeper: most poets do not truly read their poems, not closely. They stand up there rehashing them, failing to enter their own text. Reading out loud is a hybrid art between the public barbaric yawp and the secret utterance. This means a poet must find a ceremony somewhere between being alone in his or her consciousness, and projecting that consciousness outward like a prayer. It does not have anything to do with being introverted or extroverted, friendly, or taciturn. It is all about destroying those distinctions so that the compound of intimate consciousness and public performance becomes presence. Now, many people who fancy themselves experts on reading or playing and cannot apprehend true presence, but, most people, who are not arrogant about their expertise, know when they encounter it. I watched a group of bored teenagers at the last Dodge festival be transformed in an old Baptist church by the presence of Marie Ponsot. It was not long after her stroke. Her voice was clear, but weak. She had to pluck her words slowly from the tree of consciousness. She was everything you might think would be a nightmare to young students committed to being bored, but she created a presence. It did not patronize. It did not play to the cheap seats. It blew, and the spirit of its breath gave something greater than entertainment: it gave welcome, on its own terms, without stooping. This is the reason most poets stink at performing with musicians. It does not matter if they are as extroverted as Al Jolson (think Bly on a bad day) or introverted: they are not present. This is more egregious than failing to perform. Billy Holiday did not perform. Lester Young did not perform. When they did perform, it was to serve the presence, not to replace it. Without presence, you can walk the bar all you want, and the vulgar will mistake this for true worth, but you will hurt both the music and the poem. 2. Poets who read to music, often don't know music well enough to interact with it. We all think we know music, and it's true, but knowing it and interacting with it are very different. I once asked a musician friend of mine why he was so in love with Count Basie's piano playing. He conceded that Art Tatum had far greater skills, but his fantasy was to be alone in a bar and have the ghost of Basie come and play. He said: 'Art Tatum could play more notes, faster, and better than anyone with the possible exception of Jesus of Nazareth, but the Count sat out. He knew how to sit out. He knew what not and when not to play, and if you could hear his sitting outs, you'd realize they were the equal of Tatum's sitting ins.' Poets, if they are going to perform with bands, need to work more on sitting out than anything else. How do I allow the music to enter, and when do I blow? What's the ratio? If I'm reading to a blues piece, how can I give propers to the 12 bar blues with my free verse structures? How do I go in and out of the beat, vary my speeds, enter in such a way that people are not just hearing my poem over the music, but are hearing my poem within the music? How do I sit out? A poet bad at this is like a lounge singer. Sometimes, the musicians just play the changes and pretend he or she is not there. It's important, if you are going to read poems to music, to learn when to shut up. You need to know where the words and the music could come in together without either being diminished. This takes practice, as much practice as it takes to learn the writing of poetry or the playing of an instrument.. 3. Poets are often both snobs in the wrong way (My poems are too perfect to be done with music) and egalitarian in the wrong way (I want to be a friggin' rock star). An audience does not like a snob (unless it is full of snobs). An audience also dislikes slavishness. I thought spoken word was much better when the slam artists didn't memorize their texts. I liked the tension between reading it yet performing it. Now I see a bunch of actors up there, doing what actors do–especially bad actors. I can't go to a slam without getting angry, and I have a terrible Irish temper. I sit there thinking : If you touch your thorax, then put your arms out one more time to show me how sincere you are, I'm going to slit your throat with the sharp edge of a judge's card. I am not a page poet, but I believe in the page. A body that is trained to not be itself is not a body. Good performers use their flaws, not just some template of a body work shop. I believe poets can benefit from reading to music, even if they won't do so in public, just to find a presence in their voice–something beyond either the idiocy of academics who want to down play all performance, and the idiocy of slammers who don't understand the difference between presence and performance. What's the difference? Listen to Count Basie or Billy Holiday or Lester Young. The difference is the whole of the sky.
. . . "'Sweet' Sue Terry and Dangerous Sax took the stage. The group consisted of 'Sweet' Sue Terry on soprano saxophone, Nelson Hill on alto saxophone, Bob Keller on tenor saxophone, and Tom Hamilton on baritone saxophone. Ms. Terry is well known not only for musical talents but also for her mischievous approach to presenting the pieces she selects. Both were quite evident in her performance which endeared her and the entire set even closer to the audience’s hearts."
Monday, May 23, 2011
The Sweet Sounds of "Sweet" Sue Terry
This past weekend, I went to the Kennedy Center’s 16th annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival. I love going to hear music at the Kennedy Center. I think it is one of the greatest venues for music. Just amazing acoustics and music-lover-friendly theaters!
One of the featured artists was someone whom I had never heard before. She performed with Peggy Stern (piano) as a duo. All I can say is that both of them were just so COOL. “Sweet” Sue Terry played the alto saxophone as well as the clarinet on the tunes they performed. I just loved it! Sue’s music was indeed sweet and she and Peggy had a sweet sisterly vibe that was really refreshing and made me smile.
By way of a brief background, “Sweet” Sue Terry is a protégé of jazz legend Jackie McLean. She hails from Hartford, Connecticut and settled in New York in 1982. In addition to Jackie McLean, her mentors included Dr. Billy Taylor, Barry Harris, Clifford Jordan and Junior Cook. “Sweet” Sue has performed the world over and with numerous other jazz musicians such as Wynton Marsalis, Lew Tabackin, Art Blakey and Carmen McRae, to name a few. Her discography totals over 40 CDs and, as a devoted music educator, she has authored several music instruction books.
When she played at the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz festival on Saturday, it was so abundantly clear that this woman loves what she does. She had a genuinely friendly and joyful affect when she interacted with the audience as if we were all old friends hanging out in her living room. The way she played was crisp and precise yet soulful, humble and relaxed. Both she and Peggy cheerfully shared the stories behind their compositions. Sue had the perfect balance of technical agility and passionate flow. Her ability to improvise and communicate through her instrument is extremely special. She seems to connect with her instrument like very few people do. "Sweet" Sue, I am glad to have met you!
Sweet Sue Terry: Gilly's Caper (2006)
Saxophonist Sweet Sue Terry's second self-released album is a soundtrack of sorts for the accompanying short story from which the date takes its title. The music, a tale of international intrigue, is similarly worldly. The opening "Terra Incognita (titled after a bar in the story) is a curious samba with Michael Rabinowitz's bassoon and T. Ice's percussion augmenting a first-rate New York quartet with guitarist Saul Rubin, bassist Leon Dorsey and drummer Vincent Ector.
"Desert Moon reflects upon a fictional night in Tunisia, with the leader's alto soaring over an exotic atmosphere produced by Ice's hadjini and Rubin's guitar effects. Terry plays the sultry songstress to great effect on "New Year, singing in a melancholic whisper to interject a film noir ambiance into the proceedings. "Seal of Solomon (the narrative's Holy Grail) is a pensive piece that showcases Terry's soprano sax and tastefully restrained solos from Rubin and Dorsey. The date's title track, its most straight-ahead song, is a modal tune somewhat reminiscent of "So What, with plenty of blowing room for the members of the quartet to show off their bop chops.
The remainder of the disc, though not directly related to the short story, appropriately complements the music that precedes it. "Waterwheel, an older Eastern-tinged Terry composition written for a tea ceremony, maintains the exotic mood, with Ector switching from trap drums to djembe and chekere. Perhaps the most ambitious track, "Filigree, is Terry's dedication to the late Steve Lacy. Opening dramatically with Ice's echoing gong, the powerful music utilizes shifting meters to create what the composer (featured on soprano) describes as "the aural equivalent of an optical illusion.
Track Listing: Terra Incognita; Desert Moon; New Year; Toothless Soothsayer; Seal of Solomon; Gilly's Caper; Waterwheel; Filigree; The Feel of the Blues; For Arden.
Personnel: Michael Rabinowitz: bassoon; T. Ice: percussion; Saul Rubin: guitar; Leon Dorsey: bass; Vincent Ector: drums; Sweet Sue Terry: alto saxophone.
'Sweet' Musician Sue Terry Shows Literate Side
Saxophone Player Channels Dorothy Parker In New Collection
Reviewer: Bob Bernotas, "Just Jazz," WNTI-FM & www.wnti.org
"A CD should have a purpose. It should tell a story, reveal something about the artist, or unveil some deeper, hidden truth. Gilly's Caper does all of these, and does them in the most entertaining and engaging way. I don't believe there is anyone playing better alto saxophone today than Sue Terry."
An Instant Classic
Reviewer: John Leporati
" 'Sweet' Sue Terry is that rarest of jazz performers: an artist whose technical accomplishment is so ingrained that it becomes the white canvas upon which she paints vivid and varied works. And what a gallery! In her latest, "Gilly's Caper," Terry's sax work is at its best. From the rapid, intricate chord changes of "Terra Incognita" and "Toothless Soothsayer," to the sultry exotically haunting "Desert Moon," the arrangements are challenging without being distancing, making it an album you'll want to play again and again. Terry's vocal turns on "New Year" and "The Feel of the Blues," invite comparisons to Astrud Gilberto, yet are edged with an even subtler emotional complexity. Few can keep up with the range and power of Terry's sax (consider the title track in this regard) but she has chosen her fellow musicians well. An incredible selection of players rounds out this instant classic. All in all, the jazz album of the year."
Hot, Haunting, Sultry and Cool!
Reviewer: J. H. Hannen
This amazing sax virtuoso hits her stride in this showcase of styles. Evocative vocals and sax solos that pay tribute to past masters and assure "Sweet Sue Terry" a special place among their ranks. The material and choice of collaborators is perfect! "Gilly's Caper" will be on my CD carousel for a long time to come and will be played long into the coolest and hottest nights.
Reviewer: DAL, NYC
Wow, there's such a high level of finesse and thoughtfulness and energy to Sue Terry's music, and everything she does, that's it's really hard to know where to begin praising her... First off, according to Sue's website, she spent about 6 months or more in post-production -- mixing, editing, and mastering this CD -- and that effort paid off big-time! Sonically, this is perfection, surpassed only by hearing Sue live. Musically, Sue and bandmates acheive the highest order; creating more than a collection of great tunes, or hip musical passages, but a complete and yes, I have to say it, "magical" journey. If it is the goal of music to entertain and enrich and enlighten then, in the words of the great Jazz composer and musician Paquito D'Rivera, "Sue nailed it!" Equal applause for Sue's bandmates: Michael Rabinowitz, bassoon; Saul Rubin, guitar; Leon Lee Dorsey, bass; Vincent Ector, drums; T. Ice, percussion. ;-)
"It is a rare and exciting pleasure to stumble across music that is as fresh and as well-realized as this. Sue Terry has new and interesting things to say, and a warm eloquence. This is music thatâ€™s alive and inspired, as much by the emotions as by the intellect; music that springs from the heart, brought to glorious fruition by Sue Terryâ€™s gorgeous tone and polished improvisational technique." --Anthony George, Tokyo, Japan
"I've always been blown away by Sue's sax playing. Her sound just lifts me into the air and rocks me. Now after listening to this cd, I am equally moved by her compositional ability. I just love it! These pieces are original, spirited, moving, and just thoroughly enjoyable in every way. Sue Terry is a monster of the jazz saxophone and a treasure in the world of music."
--MARGOT LEVERETT, clarinetist & bandleader
Sue Terry's music is a unique blend of clear, elegant, lyrical feminity; delivered with the one-two punch of a heavyweight prize fighter.
--KEN BICHEL, pianist & composer
"Listening to Sue Terry's sounds, one has to stop and beginning to guess: who is this player?
I've been at gigs and in concerts given by this talented, original and creative sax player and always leave the places singing her last tune with a rose in my heart! Her new CD Gilly's Caper is one of the finest works I have lately heard.â€
THIAGO DE MELLO, composer & bandleader
"This is my first time experiencing a Sue Terry recording (shame on me!), so I didn't know what to expect. I decided to listen to this in my car without looking at the liner notes first (I believe you listen more carefully when you're not looking at the CD case itself like we all tend to do), so I just dove right in.
A old fashioned blowing record, smooth jazz, fusion, modern jazz?
Well, the answer is none of the above.
What it is: an extremely well thought-out, composed, arranged, performed, and recorded collection of tunes that have an underlying theme.
A jazz "Sgt. Peppers" if you will.
The very unusual front line of alto and bassoon (without the liner notes it took me a minute to even figure out what that was!) are complimented by some fine guitar work, as well as a solid rhythm section aided by various percussion instruments in all the right places. The lack of a keyboard player also adds to the exotic sound, and I don't "miss" it at all.
I really enjoyed this both for the fact that it's different, and because it's so well done. I'm going to have to get some more "Sweet Sue" records real soon.
It sounds like this band is well rehearsed, and I was very surprised to see in the liner notes (when I finally looked at them) that it was recorded in only two days! Amazing. . ."
--BILL HOLLOMAN, saxophonist & arranger
PINK SLIMY WORM
ABOUT PINK SLIMY WORM/Compositions and Improvisations for Solo Saxophone
Sweet Sue Terry/ 2003 Qi Note Records 8726
"Listen, if you're ready for 63 minutes of solo saxophone, you're not going to find any CD better than this. Sue Terry does everything with the solo sax (alto and soprano) that can be done, and then some. This incredible artist wails out her soul to any and all who would hear -- as in, you know, really listen. This is playing where the music breathes as alive with breath as any vocalist can give you, even the best of them. And you get the privilege of writing the lyrics for yourself.
OK, so Sue Terry is one of the best sax players on earth. What's likewise drop-dead impressive is that Terry is the composer of all this music, so rich and wild, yet built like a truck, and just as formidable. You could call this CD the prelude and fugue of sax.
Dues paid. Send in the agents."
(Michael Redmond is a former award winning reviewer for the Star- Ledger and Newhouse News Service)
"This is a very engrossing CD. I play it over and over in my basement while editing poetry manuscripts for Exit 13 magazine. It doesn't make the bad poems better, but it sure adds dimension when the poems are good. I certainly want to hear more from Sweet Sue. Thank you."
"A remarkable and important musical achievement."
"The solo saxophone recital has seldom been the medium of choice for mainstream players, but then again Sue Terry has never been your typical jazz saxophonist. A protege of Jackie McLean who was subsequently mentored by the late great tenor sax giants Clifford Jordan and Junior Cook and living legend Barry Harris, Terry is one of the very few female horn players to achieve acceptance on the tough New York hard bop scene in the '80s. Sweet Sue, as she's been dubbed by her mentors, does bring a certain special sensibility to her instrument, but is more attributable to her philosophy of life than her gender. A practitioner of the ancient arts of Qigong and Taiji Quan, Terry's adherence to the Taoist principles of life so permeates her holistic approach to creating music that her solo performances can be heard more as duets between her horn and the sounds of silence.
Pink Slimy Worm (the title comes from a famous classical composer's derogatory description of the saxophone) combines composed and improvised pieces for alto and soprano that manage to be musical in a variety of ways, at times recalling the solo works of Lee Konitz, Oliver Lake, Bobby Watson and Paul Horn. Terry's tone, personal and classic at the same time, is at the heart of the date's attractiveness; her broad sound can be both smooth and sweet or dark and gritty and she fluidly modulates her tonality, often in call and response patterns, to avoid monotony. Drawing from a wealth of experience--jazz, classical, new age, avant garde, rhythm and blues, Eastern, Afro-Cuban and new music--the date's fifteen tracks, variably programmatic and impressionistic, come together as a thoroughly honest vision of the world she lives in--one in which music exists as a powerful healing force, from the ancient to the future."
"Pink Slimy Worm is amazing music. Personal. Powerful. Human. Heartfelt. Real."
PEER REVIEW GALLERY
"When the saxophone was invented, many scoffed at the instrument. Little did they know that one day Sue Terry would grace the instrument with her consummate musicianship and finest tone this author has ever heard emanate from a saxophone. I have heard her many times. Her approach is truly innovative."
--pianist Wayne V. Smith
"It's extremely difficult to hold a listener captive as the only player on an entire CD. Sue did that for me."
--trumpeter Joe Mosello
"I listened to Pink Slimy Worm on the way home last night--it is great! You rock! And I laughed out loud at the redheaded kid story--that was so hilarious and so perfect! Perfectly written, and perfect delivery. Gonna give Pink Slimy to my husband to listen to now."
--Erin Hill, Gridley Records
"I listenend to your CD last night. . .it was fantastic! Very coherent and thoughtful. It reminded me of Charlie Haden--who is one of my favorites. I'm thinking of the way his solo work--and yours--is so tonal and melodic and very grounded and compelling. No wasted notes--every note is thought through and careful."
--pianist Mikael Elsila
"Your playing is great, and the compositions are intriguing and very enjoyable. I'm also very impressed by an entire CD of solo horn playing. Only someone whose musical resources flow as deep as yours could carry that off!"
--trombonist Erick Storckman
"Your sax playing is one of the wonders of the world. I'm so glad you captured it on disc--pure, without interference of any kind, just barenaked sax playing. And your compositions are daring. It's full of soul."
--clarinetist Margot Leverett
"I've always felt doing a completely solo album was venturing into dangerous territory and not for the faint of heart. I must admit that I was questioning your sanity! Well, I guess you showed me. This is wonderful . . . I want to thank you for your creation. It is a sonic treat. "
--saxophonist Sal Spicola
"Beautiful. And a serious lesson for anyone who plays the saxophone."--bassist Tim Metz
"Your CD is great! It reminds me of why I like your playing. The tunes are really creative as is your playing. Your use of cool melodies, interesting intervals, tonalities, harmonics.....very creative!!!"
--saxophonist Mark Friedman
"Sue's solo CD is pensive, clear, and directed towards a larger horizon. It sounds like a melody line for a big band with muscular rhythm abundant throughout. There is a disciplined freedom that avoids chaos and disorder and stimulates the listener into a creative partnership. I really enjoy the CD. Sue manages to share a wider aspect of her immense talent with this offering."
--pianist Bertha Hope
"Well balanced playing with a lot of poise."
--saxophonist / flutist Andrew Sterman
"I am really enjoying it ... the playing and the comp and improv."
--violinist / composer Mark Feldman
"Beautiful tone, really unparalleled, only approached by very very few -- like Weidoff, Getz, Desmond. A clear center, full metallic roundness (bell like ringing), resonance, clarity and strength.Seldom used and mastered by others, the low register is used beautifully and also the extreme high register. The tone is consistent throughout, and you could have the best low register in saxophone. Lovely compositions with feeling, line and intellectual structure. Always interesting. I love the "Water Wheel" A beautifully consistent CD, one can play it when in the appropriate mood and not be jarred into different emotions. A peaceful, sometimes meditative experience."
-pianist / composer Derwyn Holder
"Your CD is really excellent. The alto and soprano sound great, and the material really keeps me interested-- something that's hard to do on a solo CD!"
--saxophonist Craig Yaremko
"I really like it! I like the melodic approach you took; it works well in the solo context. And I thought the production was great, too."
--saxophonist Sam Newsome
"Your Worm is beyond words--I am stunned."
--saxophonist, woodwind artist and author Tim Price
For more reviews by listeners, log onto CDBABY.com/sweetsueterry.
The Blue.Seum Project
Versatile Sue Terry Promises Sweet Night Of Jazz
"Sweet" Sue Terry, the noted, New York-based saxophonist, singer, composer, lyricist and band leader with deep ties to Hartford, returns to her old stomping grounds with her quintet Friday night at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
Presented by the Hartford Jazz Society, the 1981 Hartt School graduate and protÃ©gÃ© of Hartford jazz great Jackie McLean is making her first appearance in the capital city as a band leader in seven years. As a young player, she honed her skills by jamming regularly in clubs on the heated Hartford jazz scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
As the next installment of the society's prestigious "Jazz at the Atheneum" series, Terry leads her working band featuring guitarist Saul Rubin, bassist Leon Lee Dorsey, drummer Vincent Ector and percussionist T. Ice.
Terry, a Wilton native, has been enjoying a solid year, thanks especially to the release of her two new albums, "Gilly's Caper" and "The Blue.Seum Project. "
The two radically different yet equally distinguished releases add to her discography of more than 30 albums as leader, co-leader and side player. Her playing and writing have been featured on recordings by Charli Persip, Bobby Sanabria, Jaki Byard, Fred Ho and Diva, an all-woman jazz band. The nickname Sweet Sue was bestowed upon her by her famous mentors, McLean, Barry Harris, Clifford Jordan and Junior Cook.
Terry's two latest discs are excellent showcases for her all-embracing taste. Her ecumenical range makes her much at home with jazz, classical and the multiple types of ethnic music she has been playing regularly for two decades in New York City.
"Gilly's Caper," which features the same quintet she's bringing to Hartford, was the product of six months' labor, a meticulously planned, polished project. The bright solos on "Gilly's Caper" are, of course, improvised. But everything else - including even the CD's offbeat, highly original liner notes - was carefully planned, yet retains a crisp sense of freshness, immediacy and instant accessibility.
In dramatic contrast, "The Blue.Seum Project" is a spontaneous work laced with pure, on-the-spot, risk-taking adventures in improvisation. Terry and fellow multi-instrumentalist Tim Price play an array of woodwinds before an audience in an intimate art-gallery setting in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood.
For "Gilly's Caper," Terry, who's a lyricist and a witty, amusing blogger on her website (www.suterry.com), wrote the liner notes as a short adventure story - a kind of film noir mini-script - about a heroic character named Gilly ("loosely based" on her husband, writer/philosopher Gilbert Barretto.)
Phrases such as "Terra Incognita," "Toothless Soothsayer" and "Seal of Solomon" pop up in the story line and later show up on the CD as its song titles.
With cinematic impact, the 10 pieces - all written and arranged by Terry - sweep across a wide variety of moods from the magical, mystery tour of "Waterwheel" to the celebratory title tune, "Gilly's Caper," an up-tempo caprice.
Besides Terry's solid playing on alto and soprano saxophones, she sings on a couple of tracks in a silken, breathy voice, to especially good effect on her own composition, "The Feel of the Blues."
Stylistically, the CD's repertoire ranges over rhythmic pieces, hybrid mixes that Terry describes as "world jazz," mainstream ventures and even a contemporary jazz selection. For all their variety, the pieces flow coherently and collectively into a natural sounding suite form.
Terry explains that she composed the music for "Gilly's Caper" as "a soundtrack" for the waggish tale she wrote about her Dashiell Hammett-like anti-hero, Gilly, and his last dangerous mission. Gilly's caper comes complete with a pulp fiction femme fatale, a snub-nosed .38, a gun-running Toothless Soothsayer, a Maltese Falcon-like Seal of Solomon and a late night den of iniquity called Terra Incognita.
"I'm a big fan of people really listening to music and kind of seeing pictures in their mind and having the music take them somewhere," Terry says by phone from her apartment in Brooklyn.
"So I try to compose and play in a way that will suggest images and ideas to a listener because I think that's what music does. Music takes you somewhere because it's an art form that unfolds in time," she says.
While Terry thrives on the discipline of composing and arranging and has mastered a worldwide range of styles - everything from Caribbean to African rhythms and harmonies - she also loves the challenge of playing completely free. That means starting with no set chord changes - utterly without even the familiar "I Got Rhythm" and blues changes - and without modal scales or anything whatsoever to hang your hat on harmonically, melodically or rhythmically.
Totally free improvisers create on the razor's edge, a hazardous, even frequently lethal starting point. Open-ended freedom is, at best, a dicey venture that only true masters of their instruments, like Terry, can transform into an art form.
Terry and Price, her collaborator on "Blue.Seum," are old friends who had been talking for years about recording a totally free-form collaboration. Kindred spirits aesthetically and with a common musical background, each started out under the tutelage of a master jazz saxophonist. Price, who came up in Philadelphia, began with the great Charlie Mariano. Terry, while at Hartt, studied with McLean, who was not only a master saxophonist/composer but also an influential, empathetic jazz educator.
Terry, who was named Hartt School's Alumna of the Year in 2001, was the first graduate of the jazz studies program that McLean founded at Hartt. Today the program is known as the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz.
Price and Terry, both of whom are from white, middle-class backgrounds, also share a similar multicultural experience, since, from their teens, they have worked extensively with racially diverse bands. And both share a heightened awareness of and passion for ethnic music from around the world, knowledge they've honed by playing prolifically in bands of every ethnic style.
As a wunderkind alto player, Terry quickly became a featured regular on the bustling music circuit in Haiti, a country she loves and where she has performed innumerable times.
Jamming in Haiti, while absorbing its music and culture, was merely a first step in Terry's worldwide travels and absorption of virtually everything she saw and heard. Her globetrotting experiences have not only broadened her open-ended view of music, but also, in a deep, philosophical sense, taught her much about how people of different colors, diverse beliefs and cultural backgrounds relate to one another.
Her career has taken her from appearances at leading jazz clubs and festivals from Tokyo and London to Berlin and Bern, and to plum stateside gigs at such prestigious venues as the Kennedy Center in Washington and Lincoln Center in New York City.
Besides making music, Terry loves to write lyrics and short stories; has written popular instructional, "how to play" manuals; and has a lifelong fascination with art, including drawing, printmaking and mixed-media works. Like her late, good friend and fellow Connecticut native, Thomas Chapin, the brilliant, cutting-edge saxophonist/composer from Manchester, Terry has long been interested in the creative process, not just for musicians but also for painters and writers as well.
All of which puts her very much in tune with her dual alliance with Price on their free-form woodwind ventures on "Blue.Seum"
Graced with a tight, empathetic sense of interplay and inspired by the New York art gallery's creative ambience, the album's 10 "spontaneous compositions" light up with shifting tonal colors, kaleidoscopic moods and flowing lines and shapes drenched in blues and the abstract truth.
Before each number, whether it's an extemporaneous homage to Igor Stravinsky or blues-drenched, free-form expressionism, neither musician knows beforehand which instrument he or she will even start with. Price comes armed with tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, B-flat clarinet, stone flute and bassoon. Terry's arsenal includes alto saxophone, B-flat clarinet, flute, ceramic flute, harmonica and an exotic sounding, odd-looking bean-pod percussion instrument she picked up in Port Au Prince.
"We start in the silence and see where the moment leads us," Terry says. "Each moment engenders the next moment. You feel freedom to create not limited by a given song structure that you have to adhere to."
Tickets for the concert: $30 in advance, $35 at the door; $25 in advance for society members, $30 at the door. Students: $5. Obtain tickets at the society office, 116 Cottage Grove Road, Bloomfield, or call 860-242-6688. A cash bar runs the night of the concert from 6 to 10 in the museum's Aetna Theater lobby, where there will be seating at tables.
Copyright 2006, Hartford Courant
Lessons in Jazz Improv with Tim Price and Sweet Sue Terry
Tim Price and â€œSweetâ€ Sue Terry are familiar names within the saxophone community. Both are well known for their educational endeavors. Through the years, Tim has penned transcription books, reviewed countless CDâ€™s in various publications, had a long running association with The Saxophone Journal, and is an often-requested clinician, educator, teacher, with a wonderful set of lessons available right here on Sax On The Web. Sue has written four saxophone books including the most recent â€œPractice Like The Prosâ€ and is an in-demand clinician and educator. But to limit their talents to solely educational pursuits and books would be short changing the indisputable fact that they are both monster players.
Special moments are bound to happen when two talented people like Tim Price and â€œSweetâ€ Sue Terry get together to make spontaneous music. A stream of consciousness-free form interplay of ideas that flow between idioms, and ideas like converging tides, are on display on The Blue.Seum Project. The interplay of these two musicians was recorded live at the Blue Mountain Gallery in New York.
The CD opens with â€œIndigo for Anne Waldmanâ€ with Tim on Bass Clarinet and Sue on Soprano Clarinet. Sue starts out by playing a soaringly beautiful line that evokes an almost Copland like classical moment, only to be transformed soulfully with the entrance of Timâ€™s Bass Clarinet. As the track progresses the listener is treated to bursts of technical virtuosity. The journey of musical idioms continues as they move through a modern dixieland blues tinged feel which simply has to be experienced.
One of the standout tracks on the CD is â€œJam Thang For Ratdogâ€ which is dedicated to Bob Weir and his jam band Ratdog. Tim has had the opportunity to play with Ratdog from time to time and has said about Bob Weir, â€œWhat a beautiful human being Bob Weir is. I really dug his vibe musically and the energy he performs with.â€ When Tim gave him a copy of the new CD he indicated that it was going right into his IPOD. â€œJam Thang For Ratdogâ€ is a track that exudes the best of the jam band format while paying homage to one of the great ambassadors of that genre. To hear Tim speak in glowing terms of his experiences with Bob Weir shows the great spirit of both Tim and Bob.
Hearing Timâ€™s Bassoon on the track Karlheinzâ€™s Breakfast reminds me of the first time I heard some of the great experimental guitar greats of the 1960â€²s. A flurry of sounds erupts out of it, continuing to weave musical textures between Sueâ€™s own wonderful solo lines on flute.
There is a cornucopia of musical instruments played by Tim and Sue throughout the CD. Tim opens the CD on Bass Clarinet and plays Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Bassoon, and stone flute on various tracks on the CD. Sueâ€™s musical instrument choices on the CD include Clarinet, Alto Sax, Harmonica, Flute, Ceramic Flute, and Percussion. The pairing of instruments throughout the CD is inspired and not always what one would anticipate.
Thereâ€™s a host of great tracks on this CD beyond the few Iâ€™ve written about at length. Each track seems to offer another glimpse into the creative spirit of Tim and Sue. They take the listener on a musical journey. As educators, both of these musicians excel and as musicians they are able to give their listeners music that is fresh and creative yet filled with lessons for the so-inclined to find. If thereâ€™s a lesson in the music on this CD for aspiring players it is â€œlistenâ€. Listen to your partner. Open your ears and play from the heart. Thatâ€™s a wonderful lesson to take away from a wonderful set of music.
Tim Price is a Selmer clinician who endorses Selmer saxophones and clarinets. His website can be found at timpricejazz.com.
â€œSweetâ€ Sue Terry is a Yamaha Performing Artist who uses Consoli ligatures and Fibracell reeds. Her website can be found at suterry.com.
Live interview and performance from Billy Taylor's Jazz at the Kennedy Center
Erika Funke interviews Sue on her NPR show Arts Scene, WVIA FM.