Like many other talented jazz singers, Tierney Sutton loves to crank up the tempo and let 'er rip. Well and good. The problem is, she is far more engaging and persuasive when she's interpreting ballads, and it is the half-dozen ballads"You're Nearer," "It Never Entered My Mind," "Morning Sun," "High Wire," "I'm a Fool to Want You," "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning"that lend Sutton's debut recording much of its luster and charm.
Her voice, clear and invigorating, is wonderfully equipped to convey the passion of a love affair heating up or the anguish of one gone wrong, but hasn't quite the brass or muscle required to belt a tune in the manner of, say, an Ella Fitzgerald or Carmen McRae. That doesn't dissuade her, however, from a periodic craving to open the throttle and pour on the coals.
Sutton fares respectably well on Frank Loesser's "I've Never Been in Love Before" and "If I Were a Bell," both from Guys and Dolls, but on Kern/Hammerstein's "The Song Is You" the articulation is less than precise and, in spite of reaching into her bag of musical tricks to add color, she sounds more breathless and hurried than confident and relaxed. Sutton's duets with bassist Henry ("In Love in Vain," "My Heart Stood Still") are well-scrubbed and commendable but despite her best efforts land short of seductive, as do Ellington/Tizol's "Caravan" and the medley of Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "My Favorite Things."
The opener, "Old Country," while something of an anomaly preceding as it does the album's better-known standards, is notable for a brief guest appearance by ace trumpeter Buddy Childers (who plays flugel). Sutton's sidemen are first-ratealthough pianists Jacob and Lang are sometimes pushed too far forward in the mixand she's a talented young singer who shows enormous promise. Her approach to a ballad is warm and inviting, and one has the feeling she'll soon put all the pieces together and blossom forth as a well-endowed jazz singer of the first rank.
Personnel: Tierney Sutton: vocals; Christian Jacob: piano (1, 3, 7, 10, 12), Michael Lang: piano (2, 5, 8, 11, 13, 14); Trey Henry: bass; Ray Brinker: drums; Buddy Childers: flugelhorn (1).