Tierney Sutton: In Union There is Strength
TS: Looking back on all of our records, it's one of the few areas where it's mostly me. There are exceptions, and there is again the right to veto. But, as I have to stand inside the material in a different way to the other musiciansinterpreting the lyricsI was mainly responsible. For this album, we had been talking about doing an American- themed album for some time, but different from the traditional American songbook. I had done a trilogy of songs from My Fair Lady on a previous album, and was aware that we had hardly touched on the Gershwin canon; the songs' structure is so great, and harmonically and melodically they are great, and they give you so many ideas.
So we chose three songs from Porgy and Bess ["Summertime," "My Man's Gone Now," and "It Ain't Necessarily So"] and from West Side Story ["Somewhere," "Something's Coming," and "Cool"].
AAJ: Given the nature of co-operation and collaboration within the band, how does a producer dovetail with those dynamics?
TS: Although this is our first album on the BFM Jazz label, we invited the producer Elaine Martone to work on this album, as she had produced all seven of the band's CDs for the Telarc label. She knows how we operate and what works for us. But we also did post-production as a band, so it was another collaboration.
AAJ: You are about to tour again, and past venues have included some of the most prestigious venues in the U.S., such as Carnegie Hall, Hollywood Bowl and Jazz at Lincoln Center. For the band, what makes an ideal gig for you?
TS: Firstly, an audience that is attentive and excited to participate in what we are doing. Equally important: the band being completely unified. In a material sense, because we spend so much time listening and being sensitive to one another, it's so important that the sound in a venue is conducive to that kind of quality: that the piano be a good instrument and precisely tuned; that the drums have the right tone; that the bass amps are to the correct specifications. Certain halls have a natural and beautiful acoustic, others may not, and we adjust accordingly when we set up and sound check. Getting that right certainly helps create the right conditions for a great gig.
We are always trying to create a climate where we and the audience are going to have a spiritual experience, and we become completely lost in the moment of doing this. Our goal is to have an uplifting experience, and I sometimes even tell an audience, "If no one levitates, it's not a good night."
Tierney Sutton, American Road (BFM Jazz, 2011)
Tierney Sutton, Desire (Telarc, 2009)
Tierney Sutton, On the Other Side (Telarc, 2007)
Tierney Sutton, I'm with the Band (Telarc, 2005)
Tierney Sutton, Dancing in the Dark (Telarc, 2004)
Tierney Sutton, Something Cool (Telarc, 2002)
Tierney Sutton, Blue in Green (Telarc, 2001)
Tierney Sutton, Unsung Heroes (Telarc, 2000)
Tierney Sutton, Introducing Tierney Sutton (A Records/Challenge, 1998)
All Photos: Courtesy of Tierney Sutton