Tierney Sutton Band: Desire (2009)
On first hearing Desire, by vocalist Tierney Sutton, it's curious why the audience is so quiet, until realizing that it's not a live album, though it sounds like it should be. The underlying and unifying theme here is Sutton's goal to not only deliver the material from a spiritual perspective, but to include recited texts from The Hidden Words of Baha'ullah. Sutton has been a practicing Baha'i for over 25 years.
What comes from these lofty ambitions is an album that simmers low yet never quite catches fire. Sutton is a fine singer technically, but her chilly mannerisms and tepid arrangements give Desire a professional sheen that never quite connects. It's not that it can't be done in jazz. Spirituality has always found a outlet in the genre going back to John Coltrane's A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1964). That type of passion and fire is absent here.
Last time out, with On the Other Side (Telarc Records, 2007), Sutton explored the duality and degrees of happiness. What she means by the trio of songs here ("My Heart Belongs to Daddy," "Long Daddy Green" and "Fever"), where "daddy" is a recurring theme in her lyrical delivery, is open to interpretation. What does come through between Sutton's sparse arrangements and vocalist Elaine Martone's feathery light production is that the music is not simply meant to be heard, but perceived.
Sometimes it seems like there's not much going on musically here. The contributions by pianist Christian Jacob are restrained to the point of being underwhelming as are the double-basses of Kevin Axt and Trey Henry, and drummer Ray Brinker. Nothing is bad here; it's just that nothing particularly memorable is going on. Neither the singer nor the songs make much of a lasting impact and even after repeated listening, there isn't a moment that lingers as particularly outstandingor terrible.
Desire is by no means a bad album. But it's a decidedly non-commercial one as Sutton makes it clear that her artistic integrity takes priority over catering to airplay or big sales. For the casual listener, she may be something of an acquired taste, especially if they don't entirely "get" how earnestly she holds true to the musical goal.
Sutton completists may be more enraptured by Desire while others may come away wondering what all the fuss is about.
Track Listing: It's Only A Paper Moon; My Heart Belongs To Daddy; Long Daddy Green; Fever; It's All Right With Me; Then I'll Be Tired of You; Cry Me A River; Love Me or Leave Me; Heart's Desire; Whatever Lola Wants; Skylark.
Personnel: Tierney Sutton: vocals; Christian Jacob: piano; Trey Henry: bass; Kevin Axt: bass; Ray Brinker: drums.