MoonJune Records Releases Susan Clynes 'Life Is...' Today
"Life Is..." marks the international debut of Belgian singer/pianist Susan Clynes, on New York based MoonJune Records. This release was compiled from three live concerts done at two different locations, each one with a unique band configuration.
The Archiduc, an historic Art Deco bar in Brussels dating back to 1937, served as the backdrop for two of these performances. The first was done in trio format with Nico Chkifi on drums and Pierre Mottet on bass. The second was a more intimate solo performance at the Library of The Cultural Center of Bree. The third and final performance saw the return to the Archiduc, this time as a duet with Simon Lenski on cello. Each band configuration provided its own framework and pallet of tonal colors for these diverse sound portraits.
"A Good Man" and "Ileana's Song" make playful use of the drumkit and bass. These clever songs lie somewhere between Slapp Happy-era Dagmar Krause, Elaine Di Falco's work with Thinking Plague, Annette Peacock and early period Kristin Hersh in her band, Throwing Muses. The chiefly instrumental piece, "Les Larmes", a composition about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is brimming with emotional expression making excellent use of the cello as a universal human voice.
The distilled and emotive songs for voice with piano accompaniment bring to mind such undervalued luminaries as Laura Nyro and Essra Mohawk. Susan's piano work runs the gamut from such radio-friendly performers as Tori Amos and Fiona Apple, briefly dipping into Tony Banks-like arpeggiations and cascades, and arriving at the jazz-inflected polytonality of French composer, Darius Milhaud.
Liner notes by Sid Smith:
"In my dreams the people speak, of who they are, and what they seek"
There are points in your life when you have to go with the moment. You don?t always know what the consequences will be of such a choice, or if the path you go down is ultimately the right one. Yet in your heart of hearts you sense it?s the right thing to do. You go with the moment and take that leap into the unknown.
Susan Clynes knows all about going with the moment and taking the leap.
"It was 2004 and I was in the final year at high school and I was attending a jazz summer camp in Libramont in Belgium. I had no clue as to what I wanted to do with my life and although I?d played music from a very young age, when it came to thinking about what to study at university, I was thinking about doing something not at all related to music. I didn?t want to be a concert pianist or a classical composer or that kind of thing. As far as I knew there wasn?t a school for the kind of music I wanted to do. So, I was probably on the verge of signing up to do something like philosophy or psychology not music. When one of the teachers at the camp heard I was thinking of going in a different direction he told me ?You have to study music: if you do it part-time you?re not going to grow to your full potential.?"
Her first CD, Sugar For A Dream, was released in 2005 (with Ramses Donvil on drums & Sebastien Thome? on bass) and in other circumstances could have heralded the beginnings of a standard singer-songwriter career path; courting the big labels and looking for the big breakthrough. Instead, Clynes followed the advice she?d received at the camp and went on to study composition, eventually obtaining her Masters degree at the Ghent Conservatory. The result was the emergence of a far more rounded talent, not only capable of mapping out the emotional geography of the heart and head at a piano in a solo concert, but scoring a viola concerto or guesting with Belgian prog-jazz outfit The Wrong Object.
That kind of open-mindedness is a crucial aspect of Clynes? approach and led directly to one of the partnerships featured on this album, another leap into the unknown. "I first saw cellist Simon Lenski with an Antwerp band called DAAU, part of the Rock In Opposition movement playing instrumental chamber rock. I loved what he did and so I called him to ask if he wanted to play with me. With Simon I didn?t have to worry about explaining what the song needed. He immediately felt all that. It?s almost telepathic when we play." That?s certainly a quality that can be discerned in the exuberant interplay Pigeon?s Intrusion and the rushing tension created during Les Larmes. "I want to make music that bridges the different worlds of songwriting and instrumentals of compositions and improvisation. I want to talk to the heart but not forget there?s also the mind."