Monnette Sudler: Just One Kiss

Take a little bit of spoken beat poetry and a little bit of earthy alto vocalizing, then add a keen melodic sensibility and a lot of varied, perfectly executed guitar techniques, and you’ll get Monnette Sudler’s engaging, fascinating collection, Just One Kiss (MSM-02; 46:20). In small, intimate combos, Sudler spins uplifting tales like “Something Has Come Over Me” (showcasing a touch of Anita Baker in her low-range vocals) and “Peaceful Journey,” featuring a thoughtful lead filled with plucked acoustic chordings. Just when you think you have Sudler figured out, she throws you a curve, like the hopping acoustic-electric club jazz of “Love Won’t Let Me Wait;” beat-box funk textures and riffs on “Skills;” and tricky fusion rolls on “A Word to the Wise.” Most surprising and unique, however, are her spoken-word poems on tunes like the awe-struck “Hot Air Balloon,” which adds zingy guitar strums, gentle flute and the low, elemental tones of the exotic stringed instrument berimbau as counterpoint. Sudler skillfully uses her arrangements as colorful backdrops and enhancements to her poetry. “Fire’s Burning,” a solo acoustic stunner, is a prime example, with dynamics lending a feeling of flames gently growing and lapping. These varied, thoughtful approaches to the whole context of a song make Just One Kiss as intelligent as it is absorbing.