Tierney Sutton Band

Tierney Sutton Band

Dazzle, Denver

May 6, 2012

By Geoff Anderson

Most attractive female singers with long blonde hair simply market themselves under their own name. Not so Tierney Sutton. She’s not a solo act. She’s part of the Tierney Sutton Band. Sure she’s the focal point on stage (a long blonde mane will do that), but the band is a true collaboration, having been together for about 20 years now. Besides performing together, they collectively create their own arrangements of jazz standards. Sunday night at Dazzle, Sutton estimated they have about 150 to 170 songs in their book that they’ve arranged together. As a result, no two shows by the Tierney Sutton Band are the same.

Sutton, herself, is in the upper tier of female jazz vocalists, but it’s her band and her approach to the songs she sings that set her apart from the pack. Certainly each band member is a virtuoso. Sunday night, Christian Jacob on the piano switched from tasteful accompaniment to fiery solo in an instant. The rhythm section of Kevin Axt on bass and Ray Brinker on drums solidly swung in the background, but each player also stepped up for dynamic solos. However, no matter how technically accomplished the players might be, there is simply no substitute for playing together for decades. That experience was evident throughout the set. The drum fills, the bass filigrees and the piano flourishes were musical accoutrements simply not heard with a pick-up band.

Sutton explained that the highly creative arrangements are all group efforts. The extensive remodeling of jazz standards is a hallmark of the band. Familiar songs turn into new adventures and experiences with this band. A prime example Sunday night was “Wayfaring Stranger” from the band’s latest album American Road which came out last year. That song began life as a 19th Century folk song and was later used as a theme song by Burl Ives in the 1940s. Not exactly your typical raw material for a jazz tune. In the hands of this band, the old folk song found new life as a haunting trance-inducing ballad. Burl Ives was never like this.

Obviously interested in contrast and irony, the band played “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and “Amazing Grace” back to back. Sutton introduced this pair as two different views of spirituality; one cynical and the other reverent. Upon finishing the second of the two, Sutton explained that the whole band has been struggling to decide which view makes the most sense. She didn’t have an answer. Later in the set, the band played their percussive arrangement of “On Broadway,” a tune for which the band received a Grammy nomination for Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocal last year. American Road picked up a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album.

Set List

My Favorite Things

Glad to Be Unhappy

Wayfaring Stranger

Cheek to Cheek

Beautiful Love

Eagle and Me

It Ain’t Necessarily So

Amazing Grace

I Get a Kick


On Broadway

Something Cool

The Band

Tierney Sutton – Vocals

Christian Jacob – Piano

Kevin Axt – Bass

Ray Brinker – Drums


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOcyTSKJrFA&feature=related (Route 66)


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