Suzanna Sifter is an assistant professor for piano at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Flowers for You is her first album as a leader. However, she is no stranger to the recording studio having worked with Tony Lada's progressive jazz group - - who returns the favor by appearing in this album-- Sarah Burrill, a R&B performer, and the duo Lauren Passarelli and Cindy Brown who specialize in art and folk rock. Sifter's experience in working in different genres holds her in good stead on this album. With a program made up mostly of her own compositions, Sifter's playing, and that of her cohorts, moves between lusty, exuberant, romantic, swinging, and often the intense and dissonant. Tenor saxman Dino Govoni, whose style and approach falls somewhere between John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, is the protagonist along with Sifter on the dissonant and intense. His wailing, sometimes shrill playing filled with runs and clever fingering is especially prominent on the first two tracks, "A Late Winter's Chill" and "October Leaves." The tension created by these two pieces is alleviated by Sifter's melodic, lilting delivery of the title tune "Flowers for You," where she works with just the rhythm section benefiting from fanciful bass work by Joshua Davis and drummer Casey Scheuerell. Sifter becomes absolutely romantic and Tatum-esque on Ray Noble's classic standard "The Very Thought of You," where she is ably aided and abetted by Lada's rhapsodic trombone making this the showpiece of the album. While Govoni can't seem to shake his progressive mood, Sifter, Lada, and company swing like mad on Miles Davis' "Solar."
Irrespective of the style, one thing is clear: Sifter has chops and is a well above average piano player. Don't let the teaching position fool you. Her piano playing is anything but academic. This is an album that holds out great promise of more good things to come.