November 11, 1996
By David Royko
Susan Smentek at Friendship Concert Hall
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Susan Smentek delivered an exceptional set of swing-based standards and originals at Mt. Prospect's Friendship Concert Hall Friday night, demonstrating that she and her string trio are among the most compelling musical forces on the local scene. Smentek's sweet 'n sultry voice curls around lyrics like a serpentine seductress, while her charismatic presence further draws the listener in. Special Consensus alumni Keith Baumann and Marc Edelstein provide outstanding support, with Baumann spinning thoughtful yet invigorating solos on mandolin and dobro as bassist Edelstein pushes the beat, occasionally playing across the rhythm and thereby fattening the sound beyond what one normally hears from a trio. Their attention to dynamics and shading hit a peak on a jazzy take of "Wayfaring Stranger." The sound swelled and receded with precision and passion, Smentek's jaunty, almost sunny interpretation contrasting dramatically with Baumann's dusky, menacing dobro solo, transforming this traditional folk number into something approaching a tone poem in miniature.