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Tierney Sutton at Jazz Standard

Ernest Barteldes By

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Tierney Sutton
With Special guest Peter Erskine
Jazz Standard
New York, NY
October 10, 2013

As Tierney Sutton began the first set of her four-night residence at New York's Jazz Standard in celebration of the release of her Joni Mitchell project After Blue (BFM Jazz, 2013), she noted that though she was aware of Mitchell's more memorable hits, it wasn't until the release of the Both Sides Now (Reprise, 2000)—an album that featured standards alongside some original material—that she really began to pay attention to the music of the legendary singer and songwriter.

She took to the stage with a rendition of "April in Paris/Free Man In Paris" backed solely by Mitchel Forman's piano. Her take on the tune was so subtle that extraneous sounds around the club could be heard—something quite unusual at this venue. She followed that with "All I Want" accompanied by Janek Gwizdala on electric bass (a different approach from the disc, which featured Kevin Axt on upright bass), singing notes that complemented Gwizdala's grooves. The group was then joined by special guest Peter Erskine, the drummer on many of Mitchell's albums. Forman then moved to keyboards, and then they went on to a bluesy take on "The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines" that left space for much improvisation from Gwizdala and Forman.

Sutton seemed quite comfortable in this smaller format after two decades with her usual touring band—in fact, she sang quite differently with this group, often singing in a bossa-like, almost whispered tone at times. An example of this was "Don't Go To Strangers," a tune accompanied by Serge Merlaud on the disc but performed by the full quartet in a live format but preserving its Brazilian-inspired feel.

Sutton also took the chance to revisit a few songs from previous discs—most notably "The Lady Is A Tramp," which she recorded on I'm With The Band (Telarc, 2005). In a trio format, the tune highlighted Forman, who did an extended improvised solo toward the end. Another highlight included "Little Green," which Sutton said was "Joni's most important song," whose lyrics talk about having given up her daughter to adoption in the mid-60s. Sutton sang it poignantly, paying attention to every part of the lyric and making it her own.

The group made great justice to this material, especially when they took a different perspective on tunes that were originally recorded in a completely different format—an example of that being the idea of doing "Big Yellow Taxi" only with drums and vocal. It was an intriguing set.

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