Tierney Sutton Band: Denver, December 29, 2010

Geoff Anderson By

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Tierney Sutton Band
Dazzle Nightclub
Denver, USA
December 29, 2010, Second Set

It turns out the Tierney Sutton operates a foster home. They don't take in human children, rather they adopt songs. Most of these songs didn't even know they needed a new home. Most were happily making their way through life, having been spawned by parents with impeccable pedigrees. These are songs that are as popular as the high school quarterback, the head cheerleader; everyone knows and loves them and wants to be like them. Yet the Tierney Sutton Band has taken them in, sheltered and nourished them as their own, taught them the ways of the world as the band see them, and—lo and behold—after the band completes its work with these songs, they inevitably turn out quite different to when they first came to the band. This, of course raises important questions of nature versus nurture, but that sort of deep psychoanalysis is beyond the scope of a mere concert review. Much better to simply sit back and enjoy the results.

The Tierney Sutton Band brought its children to Denver for two nights at the end of 2010. Each of the kids was well behaved, and was obviously the product of a well-rounded upbringing. While the adoptees, for the most part, had inherited predominately jazz genes, they had obviously been exposed to genres beyond those confines. For instance, "I Get a Kick Out of You" eagerly showed off its classical training by including an extensive quote from Franz Liszt. Other children, whom you thought you knew, presented vastly different personalities. "Whatever Lola Wants," for example, was dark and brooding. In fact, Sutton commented that this song is really about the devil, and singers who present a happy, skippy version of it are missing its true personality. She also remarked that they hadn't allowed this song on stage for some time, so it was feeling frisky, making a unique combination of frisky darkness.

Most singers with an iconic blonde mane and some serious vocal talent would simply market themselves under their own name, but not so Sutton. It's the Tierney Sutton Band. The group has been together 17 years now, and it shows. Sutton told the audience that the band never does the same show twice. They get together before the show, and jointly decide which of their kids they'll bring onstage that night. That's not an easy task. Sutton explained how they had decided to perform two of the three Irving Berlin songs that they've arranged leaving the third standing in the corner, wondering what happened.

Another good example of the band's remarkable parenting was "Fly Me to the Moon," which proved to be the most intense version of this song yet conceived. The other "Moon" song in the set, "It's Only a Paper Moon," had also been reprogrammed to the point of having its personality nearly completely transplanted. Sutton explained they had realized the song is really about humans' materialistic tendencies. Sutton, a practicing Baha'i for over two decades, added a spoken word introduction from The Hidden Words of Baha'u'llah. That tune also featured her ethereal, not-quite-scatting, wordless vocals, an effect she used as an introduction to several songs.

The band's longevity shows in its playing. The members know each other well and, like a long-married couple, they know what each is doing and will do, often completing each others' sentences. Sutton performed a duet with each of the band members, and the sympathy between them was obvious and worked to great effect. Several times the band effectively built a climax when called for by the lyric, intensifying some songwriting that was already pretty good to begin with.

The crowd at Dazzle capitalized on the band's enthusiasm for playing and coaxed a second, unplanned encore out of the group. Sutton took requests and settled on an impromptu medley of "Fever" and "Old Devil Moon." She decided "Fever" would be a good one, but pianist Jacob sits out on that one and, being the leader of a democratic organization, she couldn't finish the set on that note so she added another tune to take it home with the full band.

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