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Tierney Sutton: Unsung Heroes

AAJ Staff By

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While jazz enthusiasts mourn the loss of many of the members of the first generation of female jazz vocalists, their enthuasiasm doesn't seem to extend to many of the vocalists struggling, and in some cases, succeeding on today's scene. Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dominique Eade, Dianne Reeves, Vanessa Rubin, Karrin Allyson, and Nnennon Freelon, among others, come to mind.

More's the pity. Each of these vocalists is creating her own style, disparate though it may be, and her own presence, in today's jazz scene.

Now along comes Tierney Sutton, head of the jazz vocal department at the University of Southern California and a favorite or Buddy Childers. Having stepped out into her own with her first CD, "Introducing Tierney Sutton," Tierney Sutton now needs no introduction. Instead, she is extending her interests and her range.

On "Unsung Heroes," Sutton has chosen some of her favorite jazz compositions, many of which were not intended for singing but instead consisted of instrumental arrangements of distinctive soloing. Fortunately, she has discovered words to these jazz classics and added her own distinctive style to express them with class and emotion.

A soprano, Sutton really doesn't conform to the classic jazz singer mold of a lower-voiced performer with bent notes and bluesy emoting. Instead, she takes her craft seriously and delivers bright and uncannily on-pitch interpretations involving finely crafted phrasing or wordless accompaniment to instrumental solos.

The most notable example is her version of Jimmy Rowles' "The Peacocks" (renamed "A Timeless Place" for the vocal version.) With difficult intervallic repetitions imitating natural sounds and unconventional melodic lines, Sutton not only understands the interpretive demands of the piece, but also reveals in her own way its timeless beauty.

Her singing backed by Childers, other horn men and guitar on some selections, her choice of pianist Christian Jacob elevates the CD to a level above "tribute" and to "interpretation." Jacob knows his Tyner, that's for sure, and his densely chorded accompaniment and fluidity in soloing completes the picture for perceiving the inherent meaning and complexity of each tune.

Rather than following in the footsteps of other singers, Sutton has followed her instincts to develop a style of her own that leverages her inherent, and impressive, talent.


Track Listing: Remember Me; Early Autumn; A Timeless Place; Bernie's Tune' Spring Is Here; Joy Spring; All For One; Indiana/Donna Lee; When The Lights Are Low; Con Alma. (Total Time: 57:28)

Personnel: Tierney Sutton: Vocals; Christian Jacob: Piano; Trey Henry: Bass; Ken Wild: Bass; Ray Brinker: Drums; Gary Foster: Alto Flute, Alto Saxophone; Buddy Childers: Flugelhorn; Alan Kaplan: Trombone; Jamie Findley: Guitar.

Title: Unsung Heroes | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Telarc Records

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