January 2008

The Tierney Sutton Band
presented by Toronto Downtown Jazz
January 10, 2008 The Old Mill Inn Toronto
Serving up a Musical Mix of the Minor, the Meditative and the Mischievous
by Carol Lipson
Thursday evening at the Old Mill, Toronto Downtown Jazz presented a highly musical and tightly-knit trio of musicians in collaboration with vocalist, Tierney Sutton, a musician in her own right. Collectively, the singular group, consisting of the triple great Christian Jacob on piano, Kevin Axt on bass and Ray Brinker on drums, arrange, design, and as Sutton put it that evening, “hatch” classic American pop songs in their own fashion. Throughout the evening, the bass, piano, drums and vocals wove memorable new hooks, ran new riffs through the seams of standards I rediscovered with an unpredictable slant.
“There’s tension in the happiness,” Sutton noted, bantering comfortably with the audience. “That’s why I became a jazz singer.” And so, in line with her philosophy, much of the repertoire they shared that evening, songs ironically characterized by Sutton as shamelessly optimistic, were recast in minor, meditative and mischievous modes.

Tierney Sutton has a deep understanding of how melody, rhythm and lyric interact with and depend on one another. That evening, in particular, her rhythmic improvisatory gift was in high gear. In “Sometimes I Love You,” “Devil May Care” and in her finale show-stopping “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” she back-phrased, repeated notes in staccato time, stressed and punctuated with robust percussive energy. In the paradoxical, “Sometimes I Love You,” a quality Sutton is fond of interpreting, she honed in on the tension, plying her musicianship to accentuate the flux of love.

Tierney Sutton
At times, when songs slowed down, I waited for her tone to open up more fully, hoping Sutton might not opt for vocal placement that is a little more nasal than need be. Overall, however, her delivery of ballads was thoughtful, her intonation pitch-perfect, her renditions sung sometimes with flute-like vibrato or with steady sustained notes that slowly faded. In her encore song, dedicated to the recent passing of Oscar Peterson and Maynard Ferguson, she sang a Bill Evans original as a touching, tender goodbye, reminding us that while we bid farewell to two musical greats, a song well sung can rekindle their spirit and legacy.

Sutton and her band take bold musical risks with selections from the canon of American popular song. On January 10th, the four gave songs the twist and spin “they had coming”. It isn’t presumptuous of Sutton and her band to word it that way. They’re in the practice of fine jazz music-making and interpretation, rediscovering and reshaping the elements of song so that we hear the classic and familiar made new.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Carol Lipson
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