If Jesse Palter’s brisk, buoyant composition “Spinning ’Round” sounds familiar to you on first listen, there’s a reason for that—other jazz singers like it a lot. Sara Gazarek recorded it on her Grammy-nominated 2019 album Thirsty Ghost, and Cécile McLorin Salvant has performed it at the Village Vanguard. “There is nothing more exhilarating than when other artists think enough of my songs to record or sing them live,” Palter says. “But I’m excited for people to finally hear my original version.”
“Finally” is the proper adverb here, as the release of Palter’s own rendition of her song has been a long time coming. She recorded it in 2013 as part of a full-length album, cut with a rhythm section of pianist Michael Jellick, bassist Ben Williams, and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. At the time, Jellick and Williams were members of her principal band; based in Detroit and known as the Jesse Palter Quartet, they played more than 250 gigs a year together for half a decade. The album has gone unreleased for eight years, but it’s now due out at last in February 2022 under the title Nothing Standard, and “Spinning ’Round” is its first single.
Why the nearly decade-long wait? It’s complicated. Although Palter’s been swinging since at least middle school—she majored in jazz at the University of Michigan, took part in Christian McBride’s Jazz Aspen program, and has studied and/or performed with Geoffrey Keezer, Avishai Cohen, Sean Jones, Dianne Reeves, and Marcus Belgrave—she eventually set aside her jazzier repertoire and signed with the Artistry Music label (distributed by Mack Avenue) in the late 2010s as a pop/rock artist. The resulting album, Paper Trail, was released in 2019. Then came COVID.
“Nothing like a pandemic to press the pause button on life and force you to rethink everything,” Palter quips. “With the shows and income stripped and realizing I was no longer under contract with a record company, I went through a phase of ‘Can I keep doing this?’ and ‘How can I afford to keep doing this?’ It got real for a second, but every time I got quiet with my thoughts and turned inward, I would write a song and realize there’s no way I’m getting out of this thing. I just had to figure out the way to do it that makes the most sense for me—and ultimately that meant returning to my roots.”
And returning to the music on Nothing Standard. As the album’s title implies, it contains no evergreens from the Great American Songbook, consisting mainly of songs penned by Palter, but there are two covers: reimaginings of “Happiness” from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.”
“The songs on the album are to me an audio documentation of that moment in time,” Palter says. “My aim going into the studio was to simply capture the emotions I was feeling and add improvisations that came to me in those moments. But don’t be fooled—there is more to come … Sometimes the road to being the greatest, most honest version of yourself is a messy, beautiful scribble rather than a carefully planned straight line, but that makes the journey all the more fascinating.”
Check out Jesse Palter’s “Spinning ’Round” here.
For more information about Palter, visit her website.