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Pittson, Suzanne (Linda)

Pittson, Suzanne (Linda), vocalist, pianist, educator; b. Oakland, CA, 7 July 1953. Born into a musical family, her mother Mary "Betty" Wilson (Haight), (b. 1920 ) was an amateur jazz singer, and her Aunt Madge Wilson (organ/piano, 1911-1988) and Uncle Bill Wilson (drums,1912-1991) were professional jazz musicians in and around Los Angeles. With the encouragement of her father, Rollin W. Haight (1912-1998) and the rest of her family, Suzanne studied piano from 1962-1972 (age 9-19) with John Heirsoux, a student of Arthur de Greef, who was a student of Liszt.

Though she received training in classical music, she rubbed elbows with greats of the jazz community from an early age, including pianist Erroll Garner, whom she performed for when she was 12. She earned a Bachelor of Music Degree in Piano/Music Education from San Francisco State (1971-1976) where she studied piano with William Corbett-Jones, jazz history with saxophonist John Handy and jazz arranging with Bennett Friedman. She performed classical piano concerts during this time. She went on to earn a Master of Arts Degree in Music Theory and Literature (1976-1984), writing a thesis on "Developmental Techniques in the Late Piano Pieces of Johannes Brahms, Op. 116-119."  In 1978, while still in graduate school, she began singing jazz, and utilizing her many years of piano study as a base, set out to sing the language of the modern instrumentalists (i.e., transcribing and assimilating horn solos, singing difficult jazz compositions, etc.).

In 1980 she married pianist Jeff Pittson (b. 1953) and moved to San Francisco. From 1981-1991, she studied voice with Jane Sharp, then from 1992-2002 studied classical voice with Karen Connor.  Her first CD won strong praise from critics and features Jack Walrath on trumpet, Harvie Swartz on bass, Mike Clark on drums and Jeff Pittson on piano. Rapport Magazine responded in kind by saying "setting Pittson apart from the others is her sheer dedication to heart and soul through technical accuracy and an uncanny creative ability to find notes where there are none." Her improvisations impressed Zan Stewart of Down Beat who called Suzanne a "gusty, informed scatter who knows her chord changes," and Scott Yanow of the LA Jazz Scene who called her a "masterful scatter" who "constantly improvises" and whose "solos are full of surprises and chancetaking."

Suzanne began teaching jazz voice at Sonoma State University in 1996 and remained there until 2002. In 1997, she co-wrote (with Jeff Pittson) and set lyrics to John Coltrane's four-movement suite, "A Love Supreme," which she originally performed on July 7, 1997 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Coltrane's death. In 1999, Suzanne continued to perform "A Love Supreme" at various Coltrane tributes in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, with such musicians as Mark Soskin, Chip Jackson, Ronnie Burrage and Dan Haerle. At this writing, she is the only jazz vocalist to have sung this entire work. As this recording demonstrates, her bold and adventurous improvisations, based on study of John Coltrane and the post-Coltrane saxophonists, represents her own effort to further the development of the jazz singing language into new realms of expression. Down Beat said "she captures the spiritual urgency of Trane's music while pushing her voice into ecstatic overdrive." Suzanne was one of three musicians other than Coltrane to record "Pursuance."

In August, 2001 Suzanne began teaching jazz voice at the University of California at Berkeley. She also teaches music at New Traditions Creative Arts Elementary School in San Francisco as well as privately.

She has one son, Evan Glenn Pittson (b. 1992) who is an artist.

Recordings:
Blues and the Abstract Truth (1996); Resolution: A Remembrance of John Coltrane (1999)
Radio and television broadcasts:
West Coast Weekend with Sedge Thompson, NPR, 1989
Morning with John Kessler and Susan Blake, Bay TV, 1997
San Francisco Sound, Cable TV, 1998
Jazz with Frankye, Cable TV, 1998
Bajaba Showcase, KPFA-FM, 2002
Numerous radio interviews across the U.S.

Bibliography:
"The Pittson-Schnalle Triumvirate," by Andrew Gilbert, Down Beat, April 2000
"Jazz Vocalist Pays Tribute to Passion1 of Coltrane," by Wayne Saroyan, Contra Costa Times, July 1997
"Suzanne Pittson Offers a Stylistic Evolution of John Coltrane Classics," by Paula Edelstein, All About Jazz, Sept. 1999
"Commitment to Coltrane," by Yoshi Kato, San Jose Mercury News, May 1999
"Pittson Vocally Interprets the Sax," by Jim Dyar, Redding Record Searchlight, January 2000
recording of "Pursuance" cited in Ashley Kahn's book, A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album.

Websites:
"Suzanne Pittson Offers a Stylistic Evolution of John Coltrane Classics," by Paula Edelstein, All About Jazz, Sept. 1999
Profile in All Music Guide
Profile on the Jazzwest.com website

Contact information:
Website: http://www.suzannepittson.com
Email: suzanne@suzannepittson.com
P.O. Box 880397
San Francisco, CA
94188-0397

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