Despite the support of a stellar piano trio and sterling musical arrangements, Tierney Sutton turns in a lackluster performance on her first live recording. Recorded at Birdland earlier this year, the session of jazz standards and early popular songbook selections follows a melodic course. Inhibited and determined to get every note just right, the singer interprets each of these familiar songs the way they've been heard before a thousand times over.
Her voice is lustrous and beautiful. Her diction and delivery are spot-on. But Sutton prefers to concern herself with musical perfection while ignoring the storytelling nature of each song, and in the process she doesn't convince. People won't say we're in love. While we're out together dancing cheek to cheek, we simply go through the motions and ignore each other throughout the evening. The surrey with the fringe on top is bombarded with acrobatic vocal arrows that fly furiously in sudden bursts. Blue skies seem bare in their vast expanse, but they do not bring joy. The exotic land east of the sun serves merely to transport the listener along a fast-moving freight train that gets from one place to the next all too quickly.
Sutton possesses a hearty voice quality that few can match. She backs that up with expertly woven phrasing and acrobatic vocal feats. The meaning of a lyric, however, fades quickly as the singer and trio traipse from one place to the next without stopping to let things settle. "If I Loved You," a slow romantic ballad if there ever was one, offers a glimpse of what Sutton could do if she wanted to. Still, she prefers to keep the song's meaning bottled up inside while presenting her audience with strands of sonic beauty. Similarly, Henry Mancini's "Two for the Road" opens the door wide for emotional release. Instead, Sutton's delivery falls as softly as the smoke encircling a cocktail lounge piano and disappears just as quickly.
One of the best compliments a singer can be paid is when her fans tell her that she's brought tears to their eyes. A program should balance the emotional wonder of a song with trained musical behavior. Sutton gives her audience a taste of superb musicianship but leaves the outward passion behind.
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Personnel: Tierney Sutton: vocals; Christian Jacob: piano; Trey Henry, Kevin Axt: bass; Ray Brinker: