"...a light, horn-like tone...strong scat chops..." —NYC Jazz Record
"[Her] singing possesses a kinetic swing that is incompletely harnessed, and that is a good thing. Hear 'Better Than Anything'.”—All About Jazz
Suzanne Lorge is a Manhattan-based singer and writer.
Suzanne was singing folk, pop, and jazz in small clubs and hotels in the D.C/Baltimore/Annapolis area and doing backup on local recordings when Paul Reed Smith, founder of PRS Guitars, tapped her to be the lead singer for his new R&B rock band, Dangerous Rhythm. Always eager to visit unexplored singing terrain, she traded in her vintage dresses for black jeans and started gigging at local rock clubs and concert venues.
It was during an interview with Rolling Stone journalist J.D. Considine that Suzanne had a career-disrupting epiphany. Considine had been listening to one of Dangerous Rhythm’s first demos and looked puzzled. “I don’t hear anything very dangerous here,” he said.
Suzanne knew that she was responsible for the band’s lack of menace. “I’m not a very dangerous singer,” she admitted. “My voice is actually kind of pretty.”
Though other journalists had praised the band’s hard-driving sound (“…like a bullet through jello,” wrote D.C. City Paper), Considine’s words caused Suzanne to consider anew her musical identity. Just where does a black-clad, sometimes self-deprecating lyric soprano belong?
Suzanne moved to New York City and began to study acting and dance and to audition for musical theater roles. Within the space of a few years she had performed live or on recordings at Radio City Music Hall, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall. She toured regionally, played off-Broadway, and worked a slew of cabaret rooms. She sang on commercials and films, and on albums for Atlantic Records (Atco division), Varese-Sarabande Records, and Fynsworth Alley Records. She studied playwriting at The Neighborhood Playhouse and acted in countless showcases. She appeared on television shows and in films and was Jill Hennessey’s stand-in on Law & Order a couple of times. And she visited more than 30 countries as a production singer on cruise ships.
But over time, as she delved more deeply into the history of musical theater, she became increasingly intrigued by the overlap of the Great American Songbook, which derives from early show tunes, and jazz. She stood in awe of great scat singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O’Day, and Sarah Vaughan. So in 2005 she returned to school to train in vocal jazz at New York University. There she studied composition with pianists Kenny Werner and Rich Shemaria, percussion with Memo Acevedo, improvisation with saxophonist Dave Pietro, voice with Brian Gill, and music criticism with New York Times writer Allan Kozinn.
At NYU Suzanne rediscovered many of the standard tunes that she’d sung during her days as a fledgling club singer in Washington, D.C. These traditional swing, bebop, and Latin tunes formed the nucleus of her debut solo jazz album, Wild Birds, a musical exploration of the migratory nature of human relationships.
On the album, recorded at Systems Two in Brooklyn, Suzanne’s luminous vocals are offset by two different trios of world-class musicians. Pianist Frank Kimbrough, currently with Maria Schneider's GRAMMY-winning orchestra, bassist Dean Johnson, Gerry Mulligan's sideman for many years, and drummer Tim Horner, formerly with The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, played on eight of the tracks. David Budway (Jeff "Tain" Watts, Branford Marsalis, Hubert Laws), bassist Hans Glawischnig (Maynard Ferguson, Chick Corea, Paquito D'Rivera), and drummer Tommy Campbell (Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Kevin Eubanks, Stanley Jordan) played on the remaining three.
“With musicians of this caliber, the groove is solid without being dangerous,” Suzanne observes. “I like that.”
The CD launched in the U.S. as part of the Cornelia Street Café VoxEcstatic series in fall 2016 and in Europe in 2017. Besides vocals, Suzanne contributed two pieces of verse to the project: First, original lyrics to the jazz waltz “Better than Anything,” a jubilant romp through some of the unforgettable places that she's visited in her world travels. (Former Metropolitan Opera star Sylvia McNair and Broadway composer/lyricist Andrew Lippa both labeled her lyrics to "Better Than Anything" as “impressive” when Suzanne performed them as a quarterfinalist at the American Traditions Competition in Savannah, Georgia in February 2017.) Second, a poem that shares the album's title, Wild Birds, a tribute to the wisdom of the natural world. (Suzanne work-shopped this poem at the 2015 Bread Loaf Orion writers conference under the tutelage of poet/essayist Alison Hawthorne Deming, a direct descendant of writer Nathanial Hawthorne and a persuasive advocate for art as a bridge between the profane human and the numinous wild.)
Also in 2016, Suzanne served as musical director for the Down Stage Central Theater production of Romeo and Juliet, a Bushwick-based version of the classic love story backed by a contemporary jazz band (Tygar Hicks, director). In 2018 she again participated in a cross-disciplinary collaboration as lead artist/playwright/soprano for Orfeo 2018, a modern-day retelling of Claudio Monteverdi's 1607 opera with dance, chorus, and soloists. And in June 2019 she was pleased to participate as a singer/writer for a second time in the Higher Ground Festival with the debut of Secret Green, a tripartite modern pop-jazz composition that celebrates three of upper Manhattan’s glorious parks (Shinok Chung, music/vocals).
Suzanne is currently working on her second album, Lotus Blossom, set for release in 2020.
Like most creatives, Suzanne has a serious side hustle going on: When not singing, she writes about culture, music, and finance. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, The Washington Times, Institutional Investor magazine, and All About Jazz.
In addition, she writes reviews and features for Downbeat magazine and a monthly column on vocal jazz for The New York City Jazz Record (formerly All About Jazz-New York). Through her work as music journalist, Suzanne has interviewed some of her most admired jazz artists: Terri Lyne Carrington, Cassandra Wilson, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Chick Corea, Norma Winstone, Vijay Iyer, and Ran Blake, among others. She has participated for several years in the NPR Jazz Critics Poll (formerly the Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll) edited by music journalist Francis Davis. She also authors the blog, Five Music Minutes, which she calls “a quick hit of musical goodness in five minutes or less.”
Suzanne holds a BA in Modern Languages & Literature from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and an MA in Vocal Performance from New York University. She continues to study privately with jazz superstar Jay Clayton and former Met tenor Francisco Casanova.