Susan Sutton

Small Hotel

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Susan Sutton never lacks for variety in the music she selects for her albums and the format she uses to play it. Her fourth outing is of live performances at the Mount View Hotel in Calistoga, CA, an occasion when she returns to her more familiar trio configuration. The musical program this time around is not limited solely to her work, but is a mix of standards and original material. Also for the first time she abandons use of the keyboards, which she successfully had used to add resonance to her music. Keyboards or not, the patented Sutton exuberance, excitement, and exhilaration continues to abound on each track. On "Mountain View" her pianist trills, cadenzas, and other embellishments are punctuated by the basslines of Nils Molin and the percussive shots of longtime drummer associate Lloyd Wick. The trend toward featuring Latin pulses continues with a samba-like "There's a Small Hotel," to which Sutton adds vocal choruses. Sutton's flirtations with jagged Monk-ish figures are heard on her "Nearly East," reprised from an earlier release but with a different arrangement. The audience that evening must have been filled with sophisticated listeners, as Sutton was throwing some rather complicated material at them. In addition to her own pieces, there's a more-than-seven-minute exploration of Steve Kuhn's "Saga." But this didn't faze the audience one iota, as indicated by their appreciative applause. With each successive musical excursion, Susan Sutton shows she is a significant practitioner of the modern piano. In addition to an excellent play list and stimulating performances, this album has more than 75 minutes of music, all of which make it a best buy.

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