Suzanna Smith's Debut CD, 'Halfway Between Heaven & Love,' Out 11/19

Suzanna Smith's Debut CD, 'Halfway Between Heaven & Love,' Out 11/19

Suzanna Smith has been a creative force on the rich Bay Area jazz vocal scene since 2005-as a performer and songwriter as well as founder/producer of San Francisco's long-standing Savanna Jazz vocal jam session and co-founder of the nonprofit Bay Area Jazz & Arts, Inc. Her constant efforts to nurture local jazz have redounded to the benefit of many artists, including Smith herself. With "Halfway Between Heaven & Love," to be released by the singer's Ink Pen Records on November 19, Smith delivers one of the year's most impressive vocal projects, an intoxicating mix of original tunes and beautifully rendered standards.

"There is an essential, profound difference between being a singer and being an artist," writes CD co-producer Kitty Margolis in her album notes. "In today's over-saturated music-scape it's wise to be patient when making the maiden recording voyage until one has something unique and compelling to say. 'Halfway Between Heaven & Love' was undeniably worth the wait."

Accompanied by some of the most creative figures on the Bay Area scene, Smith combines the confessional imperative of a singer/songwriter with the rhythmic acuity of a jazz chanteuse. She wrote the lyrics for nine of the album's 13 tracks while collaborating on the music of five songs with pianist/keyboardist Michael Coleman.

The album opens with a graceful bebop medley as Smith's clever lyrics link Tadd Dameron's "Lady Bird" and Miles Davis's "Half Nelson." Featuring the album's core trio with Coleman, bassist Brandon Essex, and drummer Hamir Atwal, the piece immediately establishes Smith as a singer of rare poise and presence.

Smith and Coleman's "Paper Boat," "The Man That Broke the Dragon's Heart," and "Comet" more than hold their own alongside the American Songbook gems-"Hooray for Love," "Alone Together," and Michel Legrand's "Summer Me, Winter Me." Smith closes the album as she started, with an original lyric set to a modern jazz classic, Dexter Gordon's Latin swinger "Soy Califa."