Susan Getz—Looking for the “Inevitable Note”
Warm, direct singer-songwriter scores with heartfelt CD,
The Green Eyed Girl

With her first CD, 2005’s Jazz Boxx, Susan Getz announced her herself on the scene as a singer with a graceful, assured voice, denoting a quiet yet powerful inner strength and a refreshingly unique style. With the recent release of her newest effort, The Green Eyed Girl, Getz takes another step forward, establishing herself as a songwriter with a subtly distinctive approach and the confidence to highlight a calm warmth over dazzle and flash.

The Green Eyed Girl offers listeners instant delights and a clear view into Getz’s ever maturing-artistry. While Jazz Boxx consisted predominantly of covers, with four Getz originals mixed in, Green Eyed Girl reverses that formula. Getz displays her sure composer’s touch with eight originals, with a pair of covers to balance the mix.

A varied, intriguing recording

Getz shows, as well, her delightful flair for skillfully blending musical genres. As she puts it, “This album is not straight jazz or pop or blues or rock but a kaleidoscope of hues and simple intimate songs. And yet the songs and arrangements are firmly based in jazz harmonies and chord colors.”

This approach is immediately evident on The Green Eyed Girl’s opening track, the yearning ballad “Standing Before You Asking You to Share My Life.” Getz’s vocals gently blend nuances of desire and vulnerability, themes reinforced by twin keyboard voices: the gospel-tinged organ of David K. Matthews and David-Michael Ruddy’s lilting piano lines. There’s even a delightful “wedding version” of the tune at the end of the CD.

“My songs are an ode to the American experience,” Getz explains. “Family and separation, travel and how it changes you, the restlessness of the heart. All of these were on my mind as I wrote this music.”

The charming “Shadows” speaks to this notion directly. Getz sings the number in duet with her 15-year-old daughter, Caroline. It’s the song of a mother and daughter facing the bittersweet moment of moving away from each other, and the interplay between the singers is underscored deftly by sensitive support from trumpeter Erik Jekabson and saxophonist Dayna Stephens. It’s notable that Caroline Getz wrote the lines she sings, and we realize that it’s not only the parent who might long wistfully for the ability to “make time stop.”

And so it goes throughout the CD. The shimmering, shifting tempos of “Little Blue Flowers,” the lovely straight-forward, self-portrait of the title track and the sassy New Orleans lift of “Honey Pie” are only a few of the highlights. The two covers blend in seamlessly, as Getz refashions the Beatles’ “Drive My Car” into a delightful cool-jazz samba and gives a 60s soul-jazz feel to Carole King’s “It’s Too Late.”

The maturing of a style

Getz, who lists Peggy Lee, Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto as her musical influences, has become adept at letting her music breathe, at finding the space between the notes where the spirit of the music truly lies.

As Getz explains it, “I think it was Miles Davis who said, 'Don't worry about playing a lot of notes. Just find one pretty one.' That's what I go for in my music. I look for the inevitable note. The note that ought to be there. When you find that note, you don’t need much around it.”

Indeed, Winthrop Bedford of Jazz Improv Magazine, made that same comparison when he wrote, "Like some of the most mature players, masters of subtlety—Miles Davis, Shirley Horn—Susan Getz makes the most with the fewest notes."

It’s that straightforward approach, Getz’s respect for melody and avoidance of musical artifice, that listeners will find to their pleasure throughout The Green Eyed Girl.

The eminence of the supporting cast on The Green Eyed Girl in itself presents testimony to the stature that Getz has achieved in her hometown of San Francisco. The CD was produced by Oz Fritz, whose credits include work with major stars, from Iggy Pop to Tony Williams and Elvin Jones. Saxophonist Dayna Stephens is a Thelonious Monk competition winner whose 2007 CD, The Timeless Now, rose to 13 on Billboard jazz charts. Organist David K. Matthews is a veteran of Tower of Power and tours regularly with soul legend Etta James. Erik Jekabson is one of the Bay Area’s most talented young trumpeters. Pianist David Michael-Ruddy, guitarist Ricardo Piexoto, bassist David Ewell and drummer Jemal Ramirez complete the group that backs Getz so deftly.

“Working with these great musicians has helped me so much in expanding my own musical interests and perspectives,” Getz says.  The quality of the players and the strong empathy between them allowed the music to gain the rewarding, if paradoxical, blend of freedom and cohesion that Getz was seeking. Listen to the instrumental section of Getz’s “Ride,” for example, to hear how the musicians, while constantly in contact, search out their own routes, often playing off each other, before arriving, ultimately, together.

A childhood love becomes a life-long dream

Susan grew up in a musical household in Ohio. Her mother taught her the standards after dinner and her first performing "gig" was as a five-year-old, playing tambourine with her brother's rock band in the family garage.

In 1981, at the age of 18, Susan came to San Francisco to join her older sister, intending to go to San Francisco's Conservatory of Music. But life, including a happy marriage and two terrific kids, took over. So, despite a continued love for the music, Susan's dreams of singing professionally were deferred for several years.

It wasn't until 2000 that evening singing classes at the Conservatory of Music led to a private tutorial with jazz and cabaret legend Faith Winthrop. Susan began appearing at local open mikes, and an invitation to headline at Jillian's, a San Francisco nightclub, soon followed. Susan asked friends Sonny Buxton and Pearl Wong, then operating the famed North Beach nightclub Jazz at Pearl's, to attend. Impressed, Buxton called Susan the next day to suggest she start coming to Pearl's Tuesday evening jam sessions.

Through her regular appearances at Pearl's over the following months, Susan gained additional tutelage and support from San Francisco jazz veterans like the late pianist Al Plank and drummer Vince Lateano, and she studied at length with Bay Area piano great Dick Hindman.

A burgeoning career gets busier

Susan’s performance schedule was soon active, with dates at some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best jazz venues. Her evening at the famed Plush Room was a sell out, and there have been a steady stream of engagements at clubs including the Palace Hotel, Bruno’s, Shanghai 1930 and Zebulon’s Lounge. She has a recurring gig at the scenic Park Chalet, overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the west end of Golden Gate Park with a group including Ruddy-Smith on piano, Ramirez on drums and the versatile Stephens on bass.

The reception for Susan’s first CD, Jazz Boxx, was consistently positive. Howard Fienstein of Jazz Now wrote, “[Getz] knows exactly what material to sing and how to find the right tone for each piece, evoking exactly the right emotion in every case. Her voice is in turns vulnerable, seductive, touching, and witty.”

Famed jazz producer Teo Macero said, “Frequently, new singers follow other great singers in style. Not that I disapprove, but it is nice to hear a new voice. Susan Getz is on the right path with a charming sound. The concept, to be sure, is hers alone. Let's hear more from the silky voice of Susan Getz.”

With the release of The Green Eyed Girl, Macero, and Susan Getz’s growing audience of fans, will get their wish. And a whole new cadre of Susan Getz fans will join their ranks.