Sometimes it's easy to forget the human voice is also an instrument. Tierney Sutton is here to remind us of the fact. Her first live recording and fifth overall, I'm With the Band
, recorded on consecutive nights in spring of 2005 at Birdland in New York City, captures this Grammy-nominated singer at her best.
Born in Wisconsin, Sutton originally sang in choirs. A move in the mid 1990s to California led to her ten-year collaboration with her current bandmates: Christian Jacob, Trey Henry, Kevin Axt and Ray Brinker. Their 2004 release, Dancing in the Dark
, debuted in the Billboard Jazz top ten and remained on the charts for more than fifteen weeks. I'm with the Band
, nominated for a Grammy as Jazz Vocal Album, features Sutton's takes on several classics by such composer/songwriters as Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Henry Mancini and Irving Berlin.
An a cappella scat introduces the first track, "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise." As Janis Siegel has done mimicking a trumpet, Sutton makes her voice sound like a flute. The song quickly takes off when the instruments join in, highlighted by Jacob's energetic piano solo. After putting the band through its paces, Sutton closes this piece just as she began: with a flute-like scat. Sutton delivers a high-speed scat in her rendering of George and Ira Gerswhin's "S Wonderful." The bass sets the tone in a duet with Sutton on "People Will Say We're In Love."
Sutton delivers another rapid-fire scat on "Surrey with the Fringe on Top," accompanied by Brinker on drums. Throughout the album, Sutton easily transitions from scatting to singing and back. All the while, she's accompanied by a tight-knit group of sidemen. And on the closer, "Devil May Care," Sutton and the band end the show with the same level of energy they began with. Sutton's bouncy scat also quotes from "In the Hall of the Mountain King," reaffirming her flair for improv.
Whether a vocal flute, a dazzling scat or delightful songbird, it doesn't matter which sound Sutton conjures up. She takes command of each song as if it were her own, a must whenever a contemporary vocalist performs standards. Even Irving Berlin fans can only stand so many renditions of "Cheek to Cheek." But in the handsor rather the voiceof Tierney Sutton, these songs still have relevance to audiences who are familiar with the originals, while maintaining freshness and affirming the singer's own style.
On I'm With the Band, Sutton sets herself apart from many up-and-coming vocalists who break onto the scene by covering many of the same songs presented here. However, Sutton's ability to use her voice in different ways, combined with fresh arrangements, puts her in the class of vocal masters like Janis Siegel, Cheryl Bentyne, Shirley Horn and even the queen of scat: Ella Fitzgerald.
Personnel: Tierney Sutton: vocals; Christian Jacob: piano; Trey Henry and Kevin Axt: bass; Ray Brinker: drums.