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Tierney Sutton at Blues Alley

Franz A. Matzner By

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Sutton displayed her consummate musicianship as she shaped her voice to emulate each of the instruments' unique shapes and tones.
Girlish flirt, seasoned veteran, sentimental songstress, avant-garde explorer, revivalist, provocateur, camp stylist, and contemplative artist, vocalist Tierney Sutton wears all her many facets with utmost confidence, and one of the most fascinating aspects of her performances is witnessing her deftly navigate these apparent contradictions of self.

Audiences had ample opportunity to do just that last Saturday night as Sutton—poised comfortably on a backless stool—mesmerized Blues Alley's packed room with her impressive vocal skills as well as her charismatic stage presence.

Sutton is adept at reading her audience and adapts herself accordingly. Presented with the supper club setting of Blues Alley and its mixed crowd of couples on dates, tour groups, and families out with the kids, Sutton offered a varied set of tunes, and rounded the night out with anecdotes, quips, and personal stories.

Opening with a tune from band mate Christian Jacobs' latest CD, "I Fall in Love Too Easily , Sutton started the night off with a slow ballad that highlighted her ability to interpret lyrics, drawing our attention to their subtlety—or at times imbuing them with a sharpness the original may have lacked.

Turning on a dime, Sutton's next piece put her love of camp in the spotlight. Taking off at a rapid tempo, Sutton dashed off a playful rendition of the classic "Devil May Care , displaying her patented ability to sing—and scat—at super speed.

The next two tunes returned Sutton to one of her central passions, interpreting Frank Sinatra. First taking on "Only the Lonely , she then presented an unusual arrangement of "Fly Me to the Moon . On this piece, Sutton, with the aid of her band mates, proved just how completely a classic can be reshaped. In a clever riff on the lyrics, all four musicians moved the tune toward an almost otherworldly landscape made of dissonant combinations and abstract backgrounds.

Transitioning to a series of duets—one with each of her band mates—Sutton displayed her consummate musicianship as she shaped her voice to emulate each of the instruments' unique shapes and tones. When working with the bass, Sutton's voice glided and bent as if itself bowed. While performing a rapid-fire "Surrey with the Fringe on Top with drummer Ray Berger, Sutton's voice popped and snapped in accord with Berger's punctuated solos and resonate work on the toms, and during the piano duet Sutton blended her voice seamlessly with Jacob's artful lines.

Closing out the night with three more tunes including a tongue-in-cheek take on "I Get a Kick Out of You , an energetic Henderson tune, and an homage to Miles Davis, Sutton came full circle to give the audience another example of her mastery of a diverse repertoire.

Sutton is a dedicated entertainer intent on giving the audience its money's worth, as well as a committed experimenter. The grace with which she is able to blend these two goals is what makes her a dynamic and compelling performer, and this grace kept the audience at Blues Alley calling for just one more tune.

Visit Tierney Sutton on the web.

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Sounding Sinatra: Tierney Sutton Performs at the Kennedy Center
Tierney Sutton: An Instrumentalist's Singer


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