Jazz crooner Susie Arioli did not plan on being a singer…
Art – or rather drawing, was her thing. In fact , she even enrolled in a four year Fine Arts program at Dawson College in Montreal. Something she did not finish because it was too confining for her free – spirited ways.
‘It is a lot of work being an artist.” Says Susie. ” There are a lot of things, tedious things involved in the process. It is not like singing where you just show up, sit down and open your mouth and sing. I’m not lazy but I guess my personalty suits what I am doing …”
Arioli has been doing the ‘singing thing’ on and off since her late teens and early twenties. Starting from singing at any hotel / club which had a piano. Something Susie says was quite common in Montreal in the eighties.
” I would go from place to place looking for bars with pianos and sing. Thinking the whole time how great I was. When you are young, you have no idea just how good you are not. It takes an experience to humble you a bit …” Says Arioli.
Susie’s experience of being humbled took place as she took the stage and realized the reverb box was missing during a gig in a big hotel. Arioli does not care who you are – without that tool, any voice will not sound very good.
” I was singing top forties stuff with a sprinkling of jazz.” Explains Susie. ” When you are doing other people’s songs, you must try to produce them accurately. Without the reverb box, I went through a painfully educational experience. Even Madonna would not sound good without it. I’m not saying she can’t sing, she would not sound as good. Everyone uses it …”
Arioli, following her humbling lessons, truly discovered her talent working with the Stephen Barry Blues band. An experience which she holds dear to her heart. It was the first time she worked with true professionals. She followed their jams which sometimes took place at community centers. Her older sister and her getting right into the experience as the pair designed posters for the band.
“They were true gentlemen. I was not thrown into a situation where I was singled out with catcalls or something. They were so nice and they helped me to take my ‘ heart-pounding anxiety’ and harness it into something meaningful.”
The rest, they say – is history…
Susie Arioli along with her arranger / guitarist Jordan Officer, have combined for seven albums and have traveled all over the world performing Jazz standards for an ever growing fan base. Her big break came when she was asked to open for Ray Charles’s show in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Place des Arts in 1988. An opportunity which opened the door for a singer whose voice has been compared to a young Ella Fitzgerald – before the iconic singer became known for scat.
” Ella, Sarah Vaughn and a young Billy Holiday are the singers which influenced me the most.” Says the Toronto – born, Montreal – raised Arioli. ” I grew up listening to them along with Frank Sinatra, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. My parents were kinda beatniks. They were very cool. My Dad was Italian and used to wear those wife beater shirts and he was a very hairy man. Looking back – I think he must have really stood out …” Laughs Susie.
Susie also holds Brazilian singers in high esteem. Mostly because they sing with their mouths close to the microphone. In doing so – a low, deep in bass sound is parlayed to an audience. Something which Arioli admires.
The late guitarist Jeff Healey is another person the singer admires. Susie had the opportunity to sing with Jeff on her ‘Pennies from Heaven’ CD in 2002.
” Jeff was a great guy. He had this amazing collection of 78 records and the cool thing was – he could tell you which song it was by feeling the grooves. There was no brail. He would pick one up, run his fingers on the grooves and tell you what song it was. A truly amazing thing.”
Jordan Officer, Susie’s partner in crime since the beginning, is another person who Arioli holds high as far as his talent goes. Officer, the arranger of practically every song on Susie’s collection of seven CDs – is on his way out.
” Sometimes, a comfortable place can be creatively restrictive. ” Admits Susie. ” I think it has become that way. Not just for me but for Jordan as well. He needs to grow and so do I. He won’ t be completely out of the picture, he just won’t be my main guy anymore.” She continues. ” I have my own identity and so does he. We have both been living in this beautiful cocoon. It is too comfortable and too easy. Sometimes we need new challenges.”
Arioli is in the process of ‘auditioning’ four guitarists for her next album ( a tentative Autumn release) and at least one of them is a big name. A name which Arioli would rather keep secret for now.
For now, including a show at Place des Arts on Thursday November 22, Officer and Arioli will be together on stage along with other band members Bill Gossage ( Bass), Cameron Wallace ( Tenor Sax) and Tony Albino on drums. They will be performing a list of songs from Arioli’s newest CD; All the Way, as well as a couple of Christmas tunes. The rest of the show will contain songs from the Great American songbook. Some staples of Arioli’s choices will be included because of audience appreciation.
” I just read an interview with Tony Bennett. After all these years, he still subtracts or adds songs by the way they are received during a performance. As a performer, you’d be stupid not to.” Says Arioli. ” The audience is the consumer. You must ( or should ) perform what they are paying for. If not – how long can you be a supplier for?”
Some changes are standard …
Show starts at 8pm at Salle Wilfrid- Pelletier Thursday 8pm
Stay tuned for a review.