Tierney Sutton: After Blue (2013)
Sutton became an ardent admirer of Mitchell's work after hearing the brilliant Both Sides Now (Reprise, 2000), but she had some trepidation about trying on Mitchell's treasured songs. In the liner notes for this album, Sutton notes, "I knew that Mitchell's music was not something I could glance at and then perform. I had to live with it for years." She goes on to say that she needed to "marinate" in Mitchell's music; that process proved successful. Sutton absorbed the flavors in Mitchell's work, blending them with her own essence during the interpretive process.
Though Sutton is, admittedly, tardy to the Joni party, she's fashionably late. The twelve songs that she visits on After Blue are cleverly arranged vehicles that balance creative impulses with a sense of respect for the material. She demonstrates this time and again, whether bestowing elegance upon "Little Green" with the Turtle Island String Quartet, tackling "All I Want" with that group's cellistMark Summeror reworking the oft-covered "Big Yellow Taxi" into a voice-with-drums number in five. Sutton's captivating "Woodstock" veers closer to the Mitchell template than most of the other performances, but Sutton never resorts to imitation; originality seems to flow through her veins.
While the Tierney Sutton Banda mainstay on her albumsis noticeably absent, the quality of the music doesn't suffer one bit. In fact, the diversity in musical partnerships here brings something fresh into the picture. A you-never-know-what's-next feeling carries through this album, as Sutton moves from refined, string-enhanced music to hip-and-fun scenarios with flautist Hubert Laws in the mix to guitar-meets- voice encounters with Serge Merlaud. Other key collaborators include drummer Peter Erskine, pianist/organist Larry Goldings, and special guest Al Jarreau, who drops in to add some vocals on "Be Cool."
The news of this album was met with much anticipation in (vocal) jazz circles, and with good reason. Sutton-as-singer and Mitchell-as-muse are like fine wine and cheese: they're two tasty delicacies that pair well together.
Track Listing: Blue; All I Want; Court And Spark; Don't Go To Strangers; The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines; Big Yellow Taxi; Woodstock; Little Green; Be Cool; Answer Me, My Love; Both Sides Now; April In Paris/Free Man In Paris.
Personnel: Tierney Sutton: vocals; Hubert Laws: flute (5, 9); Peter Erskine: drums (5, 9); Ralph Humphrey: drums (6); Larry Goldings: piano, B3 organ (3, 5, 7, 9, 12); Serge Merlaud: guitar (4, 10); Al Jarreau: vocals (9); Turtle Island String Quartet (1, 8); David Balakrishnan: violin; Mateusz Smoczynski: violin; Benjamin Von Gutzeit: viola; Mark Summer: cello.
Record Label: BFM Jazz