Where Is Love? (2009)

Available at:  Amazon, iTunes, Rhombus Records

Full Track Listing:
1. Sugar
2. Twilight Time
3. Where Is Love?
4. Charade
5. And I Love Her
6. Ode to Billy Joe
7. Coraçáo Vagabundo
8. Open the Door
9. Nature Boy
10. West Coast Blues
11. I Fall In Love Too Easily
12. My One and Only Love

Kelley Suttenfield – vocals
Michael Cabe – piano, Fender Rhodes
Jesse Lewis – electric guitar
Tony Romano – acoustic guitar
Matt Aronoff – bass
Brian Adler – drums, tablas

Though decidedly a jazz CD, Where Is Love? transcends musical sub-genres while establishing an identifiable and contemporary sound. Backed by her five-piece jazz ensemble, Kelley layers global influences upon her warm southern roots creating an evocative mood that clearly resonates with her audience. The playlist is eclectic, imaginative, and timeless, comprising thoughtful song selections with contrasting arrangements. The unspoken exchanges between musicians are both moving and magical. The end result is a love letter to the listener.

The opening track, Stanley Turrentine’s Sugar, sets the tone of the CD with a surprising and swinging start. The next track, Platters classic Twilight Time, is made over into a sultry country shuffle, conjuring up images of sentimental summer nights. Where Is Love?, the title track, draws from Kelley’s childhood memories of the musical Oliver! This version has been recast with a 7/8 time signature, and features a soaring interplay of acoustic guitar and bass improvisation. The message is powerful yet tender – a longing for loves lost and those yet to be found – and it is the connecting point between all of the songs on the CD.

Charade, And I Love Her, and Ode to Billy Joe, are nods to pop culture sensations, each vastly different in delivery. Charade begins with a haunting bass and electric guitar theme setting up the 5/4 time. This is followed by a guitarless reinvention of the Beatles’ ballad And I Love Her, while Ode to Billy Joe borrows elements from country, funk, and gospel roots to re-tell this great American southern epic. In contrast, Caetano Veloso’s Coraçao Vagabundo, Betty Carter’s Open the Door, and jazz standard I Fall in Love Too Easily pull directly from Brazilian influences. In the classic Coraçao Vagabundo, the original bossa nova form is ironically deconstructed into a circular feel, reminiscent of a carousel ride of youth, which relates to the sentiment of the verse. Open the Door continues the journey, but with a vibrant samba feel, undulating with energy and passion. Later a bossa nova version of I Fall in Love Too Easily is heard, drenched in “saudade” (Brazilian sadness), and awash in mournful bass arco overtones.

Nature Boy, West Coast Blues, and My One and Only Love, are all jazz standards redefined. Nature Boy is transformed as an homage to the Indian raga, layered with tamboura (recorded), tablas, complementary bass lines, percussive piano, and sitar-like electric guitar. Set in motion by a plaintive vocal wail, it culminates in an extended raga-jazz fusion improvisation that is undoubtedly the climax of the CD. The next selection, West Coast Blues, brings it back to not-so-straight-ahead jazz, with a 9/8 rendition of this iconic Wes Montgomery tune. The closing statement, My One and Only Love, is delivered as a lilting jazz waltz that leaves the listener with a final sense of joy and resolution.

As a debut CD, Where Is Love? represents a self-defining moment of arrival for new artist Kelley Suttenfield.