I don’t ordinarily drink with strangers, I most usually drink alone,” states the lonely (and probably faded) lady in Billy Barnes’ masterful song, “Something Cool.” Tennessee Williams could have inspired this Blanche Dubois like heroine and it takes a singer with a talent for language, prosody and pacing to perform this story song convincingly. Tierney Sutton is very much a jazz singer, who focuses on the music, but she is also a storyteller and her rendition of this inspired and emotionally complex song is masterful.
Sutton’s previous Telarc recordings were structured around themes. The 2000 Unsung Heroes
consisted of songs associated with jazz instrumentals, and her 2001 Blue in Green
paid homage to pianist/composer Bill Evans. Although her newest CD is titled Something Cool
, there is no thematic relationship in the selection of fourteen songs. It is neither a collage of “cool” songs nor is it a tribute to June Christy. The potpourri ranges from Bobby Troup to Duke Ellington and even includes two songs popularized by the delightful Patsy Cline (“Crazy” and “Walking After Midnight.”) Sutton instinctively rides the tempos and mood of each song, always knowing exactly what is needed, exactly when to bring it down a notch and when to charge. On straight-ahead ballads, such as the previously mentioned "Something Cool," or Ellington’s “Reflections” she just settles in and puts you under her spell. But, after breaking your heart with a soul-searing ballad, Sutton scats and swings through an amazing “Ding, Dong! The Witch Is Dead.” This Arlen-Harburg song (from the famous Wizard of Oz
) not only shows her versatility with tempo changes and range, but also displays her unique talent for choosing songs commonly associated with a different musical genre and placing them in a jazz context. Sutton once said, “there's always got to be
a tension in a song for me to really want to do it.” She then stated that, by tension, she meant “a sort of ‘edge’ that is absent in much of pop-music and musical theater for example. And I think that’s kind of what my band does is if we take a simple song, that doesn’t have enough tension, we add some tension. If we have a song that has plenty of tension, we leave it alone. We just do it.” That “band” that Sutton speaks of consists of pianist Christian Jacob, bassist Trey Henry, and drummer Ray Brinker. They have worked with her, toured with her and, in various configurations, recorded with her for a long time. Sutton often praises her band and rightly so; they are stellar.
Sutton is an exceptional singer. Her pitch and phrasing are always impeccable and, as noted, she also has a rare knack for selecting interesting repertoire.
It's so warm here in town, but don’t let the heat get you down, order Something Cool
, namely Sutton’s latest on Telarc. It is a nice addition to her ever-growing canon of songs. Tierney Sutton is clear of voice and true of spirit. Each of her CDs are highly recommended.
Visit Tierney at her website, http://www.tierneysutton.com.