Suzanne Kramer remembers the moment that she first fell in love, with music. The singer and songwriter, recalls that it all started when she was about 12 years old.
“I was watching my mom’s soap opera and one of the girls sang ‘I’m Through With Love,’ and I noted that I liked it. My grandpa got me the sheet music because I played flute. He figured I’d play it on flute, but I just started singing it. The adults realized, ‘Wow she can sing!’”
“I’m Through With Love” became well-known when Marilyn Monroe performed it atop a piano, backed by an all-female jazz band, in the 1959 film “Some Like It Hot.”
For a young girl, that song may have seemed mature. Today, Kramer, a New York native, now 52 and based in San Francisco, is taking her music to audiences in clubs and live nighttime gigs, as well as audiences that indeed are a bit more mature.
Kramer first performed in Napa for the Napa Strong fire-relief concert, in response to an invitation by local singer Shelby Lanterman. “I donated my time and a guitar. That sort of kicked off my relationship with Napa, and I made a lot of friends up here. People keep asking me, ‘When are you going to be playing up here?’ I love it up here, it’s beautiful, and now I have a lot of friends up here.”
On a recent Saturday afternoon, Kramer returned to Napa. Rather than playing in a club, or on a professionally-lit stage,she went to assisted living homes, where, accompanied by pianist Greg Sankovich she sang old-time standards, as well as some original music and classic holiday tunes.
“The reason I wanted to play up here, and in other nearby areas at these assisted living homes, is because you see the reaction,” Kramer said, “As women, I feel like we never lose our passion; we never lose what defines us as women. I feel like a lot of times when people get older, they are not seen as women as any more.”
Therefore, Kramer has embarked upon a mission. “My mission is to make sure that women who are 95 years old feel beautiful. And when I sing for them, I want them to relive when they fell in love to those songs. I want them to feel that feeling. I think it will make them feel healthier, (and) when those hormones get released, it helps your body. Not just the women, the men too. But being a woman, I identify with women. I want them to feel romance and passion again, and with this music, I am the conduit for that.”
“I recognize it and I see it,” Kramer said. “It’s sort of like the namaste of passion. The passion in me sees the passion in you. That’s my goal. Music is a gift for all of us, I love singing, I love getting up and sharing the music with people.”
Shows for her more mature audiences are usually scheduled earlier in the day than typical evening gigs. “When I perform at these places I do standards, and maybe some folk originals,” Kramer said. “But when I play clubs, it’s a little more edgy. It is kind of a blend of me up there with my guitar, and then I invite other musicians, and we do this wonderful mixture of jazz and pop together.”
Kramer’s introduction to jazz at such a young age so greatly impacted her musical career that she has developed a mixture of musical styles, including her own original music, which she classifies as pop/folk as well as standards. “I feel like the two musical styles can really support each other,” she said, “Because of the way that I sing and how I feel about the music.”
Formerly, Kramer was part of a band that was known for a harder hitting, indie rock, pop and country music-influenced style. Now releasing music as solo artist “just Suzanne” across all of the music aggregates such as Spotify, SoundCloud, Pandora, Apple Music and Google Play, Kramer has more flexibility and artistic freedom.
Kramer has been working on a new EP record of standards titled “When We Fell In Love” and has been releasing singles once per month. In November, she released “The Christmas Song” and earlier this week released “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” which was popularized by artists such as Ella Fitzgerald. “What’s exciting to me is that I don’t think that a lot of people know that song,” Kramer said. “It may be the first time that they hear it.”
Backing Kramer on her EP are Sankovich on piano, Doug Pohorski on bass and Jason Lewis on drums. Pohorski tracked and mixed the songs at his Acoustic Sound Shop studio in the Bay Area, while the recordings were mastered by John Cuniberti. Audio samples are available, as will be the new EP, at Just-suzanne.com.
The audience response to Kramer’s music is nostalgic. She said that she usually hears comments from ladies at assisted living homes such as, “You sing in better than the originals, or you remind me of Rita Hayworth, or I danced with my husband to that or, that was our song.”
“I think that a lot of what I get, is that they are really happy,” said Kramer, “They still love sultry and sexy and how I present this music like that. I think they are saying it because they feel it. They want that, they want it back in their lives. They are people with full amazing lives, and probably share this love of the music that I love, so there is like this bond, and if I can just help them rediscover that person, they might have even forgotten that person exists. I want them to rediscover that woman in them, because she’s still there.”