The music business being what it is, artists increasingly need to be DIY experts. Case in point: New Jersey vocalist Sandy Sasso, who has established herself as a one-woman dynamo. Sasso not only sings on all 12 tracks of Hands On, but also served as executive producer and principal arranger, partnered on mixing and mastering, composed two of the selections and released the album on her own label.
As evident across her three previous discs, Sasso’s tremendous appeal remains tripartite. First, there’s the voice: smoky and slightly husky à la Julie London but far more powerful, suggesting the pop-jazz verve of Linda Ronstadt, with whom she shares the benefit of having worked with Nelson Riddle.
Then there’s the playlist, at once thoughtful and delightfully eclectic, blending jazz standards with classic Broadway tunes and ’60s pop. More important, there’s what Sasso, one of the most interesting interpreters around, does with such a stew. Whether transforming “My Ship” into a lilting waltz, configuring “Crazy He Calls Me” as a midtempo swinger or reimagining the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” as a sultry ballad, Sasso consistently makes it seem as if you’re hearing such well-worn tunes for the first time.
Finally there’s Sasso the songwriter, here exploring complementary themes. The breezily introspective “They Left Me” salutes various women in her life who, now passed, helped shape who she is, while the closing “Natural Self” espouses, with childlike exuberance, the importance of finding comfort in your own skin.