Iowa-born singer-songwriter Susan Werner was regarded as one of America's promising new folk stars when she recorded her first album in 1993. Six releases later, Werner returns to her first love, jazz, on a new collection of originals titled, I Can't Be New. The Washington Post once described the multi-talented performer as "a show-stopper with unlimited potential."
It's one thing to be able to sing in the style of the Great American Songbook, but to write original songs that convey the Golden Age of jazz and popular music, that's the icing on the cake. With I Can't Be New, Susan Werner proves she is capable of doing both.
Werner has always had a knack for writing and performing music. By the time she was in high school, she'd learned to play guitar, piano and saxophone. She earned a degree in voice at the University of Iowa, and later studied opera at Temple University in Philadelphia. One of her influences was Texas singer Nanci Griffith whose edgy contemporary folk style inspired Werner to take her music to folk clubs and coffeehouses in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia. An instant success on the folk circuit, Werner never abandoned her pursuit of jazz.
It's no surprise that Susan Werner could sing jazz. Such musical greats as Thelonious Monk, Shirley Horn, Julie London and Chet Baker were particular favorites. For reading, she studied A Century of Jazz by Roy Carr. And for writing inspiration, she lists Dunkin Donuts coffee, Boston Red Sox baseball games on the radio, and trips to the Wild Oats Natural Marketplace in Andover, Massachusetts.
Susan Werner says her new album is a songwriter's record, or in her words, "a combination of Carole King's Tapestry and Ella Fitzgerald's Cole Porter Songbook.
It's becoming rarer to find a popular artist who composes and performs her own work, not to mention singing and playing guitar, piano, organ and ukulele. Susan Werner is one of the few in that select group of musicians, and does it on her new album, I Can't be New.