Bass player Keeter Betts, who normally works with Ella Fitzgerald, was in Springfield, Va., last December recording "Love Dances," the debut album of singer Sue Matthews of Arnold.
After listening to hersing, Betts turned to executive producer Marty Horowitz and said, "You know, Sue had to have been born on a Monday -- because when God created the heavens and the earth, it took six days, and he rested on Sunday. The next day he got up and created beauty."
The public, unfortunately, will have to wait awhile to hear if Betts knows what he's talking about. The album, on the independent SIR record label, probably won't be out until late spring,
Co-producedby Matthews and Maryland Inn musical director Stef Scaggiari, "Love Dances" features the singer performing classic and contemporary jazz standards backed by Scaggiari on keyboards, drummer Mike Smith (who has worked with Roberta Flack and Mose Allison), bass player Keeter Betts and guitarist Steve Abshire of the Commodores, the Navy's jazz ensemble.
During a recent weekend engagement at the Maryland Inn's
King of France Tavern in Annapolis, Matthews talked about her music.
She said she shies away from the "jazz singer" label, since the public image of jazz singers tends to involve the non-verbal technique known as scat, as popularized by Ella Fitzgerald and others.
Instead, Matthews said, she pays "a great deal of attention to the lyric, the phrasing of the lyric, and how the lyric is the mistress of themusic. I am comfortable getting myself into the story of the song, and what that story means to me."
This philosophy pays a handsome dividend in her live performances, where Matthews showcases her remarkable faculty of turning each song into a miniature play. This makes her show a complete emotional experience that not only delights the ear but engages the hearts and minds of her audiences.
Normally a mainstay of the better jazz rooms in the Washington-Baltimore area, Matthews has been devoting much of her time of late to the album.
"You think it's going be a snap, 'I'm going to do an album, and in two weeks it's going to be done,' " she said. "But it takes awhile."
Beginning in December, Matthews and her associates recorded most of themusic together, instead of on separate tracks, to capture as much ofan in-concert feel as possible.
The end result, she said, was "a nice acoustic sound, which is wonderful. There's no overproduction, no synthesized strains or anything like that.
"We started in late January and February mixing and editing," she added, "and we've finally finished that. We had the photo shoot (last) week, and it's going to be another six weeks or so before (the album's) completed."
Putting together her first album was "very challenging, very rewarding, and a very learning experience. I was in school every day. I truly enjoyed working in the studio and being involved in the whole project from start to finish."
Longtime friend and collaborator Scaggiari praised Matthews' style.
"I think Sue's forte is the classics," he said, "Harold Arlen, the Gershwins. And she sings that very well. So when she decided to do an album, and talked to me about it, I said, 'Do what you do best, the '30s and '40s music, that's always in style. The golden era of American song writing . . . not nostalgia, but the masterpieces of American music."
Matthews credits Annapolitan Marty Horowitz with initiating the project.
"He was the force that goteverything going and helped to see it through. We do have other investors," she said, "but Marty is the chief executive producer.
"Marty had seen me perform at the Maryland Inn several times over the last two or three years and threatened several times to help me with a demonstration tape, or the like."
Finally, last fall, "He said, 'Let's go ahead and do this CD that we've been talking about.' "
"I've heard Sue about seven times," said Horowitz, who normally deals with computer software, "and I felt it was my responsibility to make sure that voice got out."
To do so, he created SIR Records, taking the name of the company from the first letters in each of his children's names Stacey, Ian and Ryan.
"I believe she is a great singer," Horowitz said of his involvement. "She has an honest voice.