Sue Maskaleris is an award-winning pianist, singer, composer, lyricist, arranger and producer.
Born in Montclair, NJ and raised in Short Hills, she lived in NYC for 35 years, performing and touring the world as a bandleader and solo, before returning to NJ. Discovered by McCoy Tyner in 1987, he said she has “a touch like Bill Evans.”
Sue has played for singers Annie Ross, Abbey Lincoln among hundreds of others; worked with bassist Mike Richmond, Ron McLure, Harvie Swartz; the late hornmen Don Elliott and Wayne Andre; worked on new theatrical works by LeRoy Jenkins, Geri Allen, Taj Mahal and Burt Bacharach. Her songs have been performed by Bob Dorough and Roger Kellaway; and have been recorded by Bill Watrous and Bob Moses.
Her first CD, "Unbreakable Heart", featured legends Eddie Gomez, Lenny White, Mark Murphy, Michal Urbaniak and Toninho Horta on her songs. Sue's second CD of original Brazilian jazz, “Bring Nothing But Your Heart" debuted at #3 nationally, featuring Mark Egan and Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez.
Her newest work, “Love Is the Key” has a timely title song for these days of covid 19 and racial unrest. Likewise timely is “March of the Refugee (Dire)” about immigration. This CD features Janis Siegel and the finest Brazilian players in NYC.
Sue placed second worldwide in the Thelonious Monk Composition Competition for her song, “Scat!”. She won the Billboard Song Contest - World category for“ No, But I Wish...”.Sue's instrumental, “Pajamasamba" was a winner in JAZZIZ magazine’s “Keyboards On Fire!” Talent Search judged by Dave Brubeck and Bob James. She has won many ASCAP Popular Awards as well for her compositions.
Sue performs a seemingly endless repertoire of unusual material and reconceived standards, but Brazilian jazz, Latin and jazz are her wheelhouse. Her music has been the ticket to such remote ports as Easter Island, Oman, Vietnam and hundreds more. She has worked in Ireland, Switzerland and Sweden.
NYC favorite venues include Damrosch Park, Birdland Theatre, the Blue Note, Iridium, Zinc Bar and her annual week in Bryant Park.
Sue also plays electric and acoustic violin; dabbles on 5-string electric and upright bass, Brazilian guitar and sings in 6 languages.
Sue is the daughter of former big band bassist Steve Maskaleris, who spun the LPs of Woody Herman and Lionel Hampton on the hi-fi. At three, she begged for piano lessons which she began at four. Seeing her dad play with a dixieland combo in her school as a small child inspired Sue to become a musician. The family frequented concerts of the Duke, Count and Ella, as well as such artists as violinist David Oistrakh. She took up the violin at age 8. Sue composed her own children’s songbooks.
At 11, she got to sit in with Stephane Grapelli at a soundcheck in Paris. As a teen, she arranged and composed for small choral groups, adding guitar. She won talent contests and appeared in teen arts festivals. Though Sue studied classical piano since middle school, at 16 she attended a jazz summer program at Berklee School of Music in Boston. On her first day, she heard Chick Corea’s “Light As a Feather.” This Brazilian jazz record set her on that path. The next year she had a fusion group with guitarist Ken Sebesky,
later studying arranging with his noted father, Don Sebesky. Sue won “Outstanding Musician” awards in at the Ramapo and Matawan High School Jazz Festivals.
She majored in composition at the Manhattan School of Music, studying privately with the great composer John Corigliano. In a fugue class, her teacher, composer Ludmila Ulehla gave her an “A+! Bach couldn’t have done better himself,” she wrote on it. Sue moved to George Gershwin’s brownstone on the upper west side in Manhattan and soon began working as pianist, singer and musical director in clubs and hotels in NYC and abroad, and on over 26 ships sailing all over the world.