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At a glance, Tierney Sutton's new album is all about being happy. However, as the singer explains in the liner notes, it's more about life's experiences in the "pursuit of happiness." A ride that includes the thrill of the chase, the heartache that comes with failing to achieve happiness or losing it, and the joy of experiencing something greater than one's desire.
Sutton was a semi-finalist in the 1998 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition. Her 2004 Telarc release, Dancing in the Dark, debuted in the Billboard Jazz top 10. The successful follow-up, I'm With the Band (Telarc, 2005), was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album and was one of the finest releases of that year.
With the new album, On The Other Side, Sutton's band includes Christian Jacob on piano, Kevin Axt and Trey Henry on bass, Ray Brinker on drums and special guest, Jack Sheldon on trumpet and vocals. The opening track is one of two versions of the standard "Get Happy." Although traditionally a joyful song, the mood of this rendition is somber. Played at a much slower pace than the usual arrangement, it's less of a pep talk and more of a desperate plea. With both bassists in the background, Brinker working out the toms and cymbals and Jacob adding to the melancholy sound, Sutton's smooth and perfect tones still make this a pleasure for listening.
The band stretches out a bit on "You Are My Sunshine." Sutton comes through like a human flute on her part. Brinker keeps time with the hi-hat while the bassists back Jacob's elegant piano solo. Jacob takes a break on "Sometimes I'm Happy," an almost upbeat selection punctuated by one of several scats by Sutton. Sheldon also appears on "I Want to Be Happy," in which he performs a vocal duet with Sutton as well as playing a sizzling trumpet solo. The two also engage in delightful banter near the end of the song.
Sutton dedicated the album to the spirits of her mother, Paula Garvin Sutton, and Maynard Ferguson, whom she calls a friend and mentor. All of the songs are good listening. Despite representing the idea that the chase of happiness is what causes problems, each track has joy and beauty.
Track Listing: Get Happy; Happy Days Are Here Again;You Are My Sunshine; Glad to Be Unhappy; Sometimes I'm Happy; Happy Talk; Haunted Heart; I Want to Be Happy; Make Someone Happy; Great Day!; Happy Days Are Here Again (version 2); Get Happy (version 2); Smile.
Personnel: Tierney Sutton: vocals; Christian Jacob: piano; Kevin Axt: bass (1-3, 5, 8); Trey Henry: bass (1-5, 7, 9-12); Ray Brinker: drums; Jack Sheldon: trumpet (4, 8), vocal (8).