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Tierney Sutton and Tamir Hendelman at the Jazz Forum

Tierney Sutton and Tamir Hendelman at the Jazz Forum

Courtesy Scott Lichtman

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There’s a variety of reasons that every recording Sutton has made in the last decade has been nominated for a 'Best Jazz Vocal Album' Grammy.
Tierney Sutton and Tamir Hendelman
Jazz Forum
Tarrytown, NY
March 15, 2024

Tierney Sutton and Tamir Hendelman brought an expressive evening of voice and piano to the Jazz Forum in Tarrytown NY, March 15th, 2024. The overarching theme of the performance was "songs about Spring."

There's a variety of reasons that every recording Sutton has made in the last decade has been nominated for a "Best Jazz Vocal Album" Grammy. Among these are her incredible voice control, unique selection of themes and compositions, and her chemistry with collaborators. This evening, she brought this successful approach in compact form to the intimate music/dinner club Jazz Forum, emphasizing songs about Spring, love, and renewal, in tandem with frequent co-performer Tamir Hendelman. The two have a musical relationship going back 20 years, one deepened by virtual arranging and streaming performance experiences during the COVID pandemic.

The pair opened with a "warm up," the up-tempo "S'Wonderful," in which Sutton demonstrated her scatting abilities. Hendelman countered with an agile left hand on the piano, alternately walking and striding the bass line while punctuating the melody with chordal clusters.

The pair then offered an extended sequence of Spring songs and mash-ups. These included "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," and "Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year," the latter popularized by Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. Soon after came "You Make Me Feel So Young" paired with "Younger than Springtime," from the show South Pacific. "April in Paris" offered some of Sutton's most beautiful vocals and blended into Joni Mitchell's "Free Man in Paris." If this review reader had just one Tierney Sutton song to sample right now, "April in Paris / Free Man in Paris" from her After Blue album would be a strong contender.

The mastery and chemistry of the two performers was consistent throughout the set. Foremost, Sutton demonstrated a level of vocal control that is hardly surpassed. For instance, she not only knows when to apply vibrato, but can vary the depth and velocity of that technique. Her range is elastic, ranging from a deeper chest voice contralto to "early Joni Mitchell highs." Musically, she transforms both melodies and solos into muted trumpet phrasings reminiscent of Miles Davis's cool jazz period. Meanwhile, Hendelman, both as a pianist and a co-arranger, married a sense of swing with modern harmonies, shifting syncopations, and delicate touch, providing an ideal foil to Sutton's sensitive instrument.

Stepping outside the canon of well-known standards, Sutton placed her most attention-grabbing songs near the end of the set. "You Can't Rush Spring," by singer/composer Ann Hampton Calloway, is a melancholy ballad that Calloway and Sutton have recorded as a duet. Sutton described the piece as worthy of being considered a standard. The sensitive melody rests on a continuous swirl of harmonic colors (e.g., C#7b5 to D7#5#9, anyone?). Hendelman applied a slow Bossa ostinato in his left hand while inserting light fills akin to raindrops landing in reflective puddles. The lyrics heightened the sentimental mood:

There'll come a morning when the frost will end and when your broken heart will mend;
But these are wonders only time can bring...
You can't rush spring.


The most stunning selection was Jimmy Buffet's "Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On." Written for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, the lyrics ostensibly open with mention of a watch whose time never changes, then transitions to what happened that August of 2005:

And it poured,
the earth began to strain,
Pontchartrain buried the 9th Ward to the second floor.


At the end of the piece, there was a brief hush in the audience before enthusiastic applause broke out. Thus went another brilliant song selection by the vocalist.

The set closed with a Jobim waltz, "Double Rainbow." Sutton opened the piece mimicking bird calls similar to the sounds of the Brazilian percussion instrument, the cuica. Hendelman used this final opportunity to solo to raise the emotional stakes, making full use of the keyboard's range in lush waves of sound. Then Sutton joined in, vocalizing, to create one common musical expression. They ended the set where they began it, looking at each other and extracting the maximum musicality from the interaction.

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