Sue Matthews

One at a Time

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In the jazz world, some people equate having a pretty, crystal-clear voice with being unswinging and unsoulful. But such thinking is not only dogmatic, it is also silly. Sue Matthews has that type of voice, and her third solo album, One at a Time, demonstrates that she can swing -- Matthews doesn't necessarily swing the way that Kitty Margolis, Karrin Allison, or Judy Niemack swing, but she swings nonetheless. And although One at a Time isn't the most challenging jazz-oriented vocal release of 2002, Matthews is expressive, likable, and honest. She is also an artist who, like the late Susannah McCorkle, incorporates cabaret and traditional pop influences but still has a jazz orientation. Matthews is at her most cabaret-minded on the album's torchy ballads, which range from Michel Legrand's "On My Way to You" to Stephen Sondheim's "Losing My Mind." Thankfully, she realizes that being cabaret-minded doesn't have to mean campy or cornball -- Matthews has the good taste to avoid the sort of unbearably campy material that is all too prevalent in today's cabaret world. Meanwhile, her grittier, more bluesy side asserts itself on up-tempo offerings like Arlen & Harburg's "Down With Love," Duke Ellington's "Rocks in My Bed," and Ida Cox's "Wild Women Don't Get the Blues," all of which demonstrate that Matthews has no problem swinging. And there is no reason why she shouldn't have a cabaret-ish side and a bluesier side; one doesn't automatically cancel out the other, and Matthews does both things well. One at a Time won't go down in history as an album that tried to reinvent the vocal wheel, but it's a pleasing (if conventional) effort that jazz, traditional pop, and cabaret fans should all be aware of.

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