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Tierney Sutton: American Road

Jack Bowers By

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The name "Tierney Sutton Band" is not only inclusive but entirely appropriate, as Sutton, one of the current scene's most versatile and accomplished jazz singers, uses her supple voice as an instrument to complement those of pianist Christian Jacob, drummer Ray Brinker and bassists Trey Henry or Kevin Axt on American Road, the band's spacious and colorful salute to the country of its birth. The album has been nominated for Grammy Awards for best instrumental recording (small groups) and best arrangement for group with vocal, for "On Broadway."

Speaking of arrangements, they are in each instance a collective endeavor with everyone in the band providing input on an equal basis. "On Broadway" and every other number was arranged by the group as a whole, not by any one (or more) of its members. That's one reason, aside from its longevity (more than a decade together) that the band sounds so remarkably compliant and well-balanced. While Sutton is understandably in the forefront vocally, she is inspired and enhanced at every turn by her stellar supporting cast, which seizes every opportunity to add an impressive phrase or modulation of its own.

Before traveling to "Broadway," American Road sets the scene with a trio of traditional folk songs, "Wayfaring Stranger" and a medley of "Oh Shenandoah" and "The Water Is Wide." John Newton's hymn, "Amazing Grace," precedes three numbers from George Gershwin's groundbreaking musical Porgy and Bess—"It Ain't Necessarily So" (during which we learn that whales are mammals, not fish), "Summertime" and "My Man's Gone Now" (the last encompassing a radiant solo by Jacob). Sutton softly caresses every measure of the standard "Tenderly," which is followed by the too-seldom-heard Harold Arlen/Yip Harburg anthem, "The Eagle and Me," introduced by Dooley Wilson in the 1944 Broadway musical Bloomer Girl.

Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim are given their due with three memorable songs from West Side Story—the soul-stirring ballad "Somewhere" and a medley of "Something's Coming" and "Cool"—before Sutton and the band wrap things up with the patriotic theme "America the Beautiful." From end to end, this Road is paved with earnestness and affection, making any journey along its boulevards and byways as enticing as it is pleasurable.

Track Listing: Wayfaring Stranger; Oh Shenandoah/The Water Is Wide; On Broadway; Amazing Grace; It Ain't Necessarily So; Summertime; My Man's Gone Now; Tenderly; The Eagle And Me; Somewhere; Something's Coming/Cool; America The Beautiful.

Personnel: Tierney Sutton: vocals; Christian Jacob: piano; Kevin Axt: electric bass, acoustic bass; Trey Henry: electric bass, acoustic bass; Ray Brinker: drums, percussion.

Title: American Road | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: BFM Jazz

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