June 2006

Susan May
Black Coffee

Here’s a disconcerting realization: Chicagoan Susan May, who’s just released her second platter of standards, never coexisted on this planet with Sarah Vaughan. May wasn’t born until the year after Sassy’s death in 1990. She hadn’t yet reached her fifth birthday when Ella Fitzgerald expired. As you’ve probably already calculated, May isn’t old enough to vote, drink or legally engage in an adult relationship. She is 15. She was 12 when her debut disc, The Rose, earned her priceless praise from mighty Oprah Winfrey, who dubbed her one of “the world’s most talented kids.”

So what does a prepubescent tyke know about the heartache at the core of “Black Coffee” or the exquisite longing that defines “Since I Fell for You” and “I Will Wait for You” or the breathless desire of “The Very Thought of You”? In practice, it seems safe to assume, not much. But in song, May manages to sell such sentiments with the torchy assurance of Helen Morgan and sage world-weariness of Lee Wiley.

Originally published in June 2006

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