Tierney Sutton is the calm current flowing through the turbulent water of jazz vocals, making big changes and important recordings without stirring the water too much. Her creative presence and influence cannot be denied when listening to Gretchen Parlato
, Becca Stevens
and Renee Yoxon and Mark Ferguson
among many others. Sutton's musical metaphysics is grounded in cool yet penetrating exploration using the traditional jazz instrumentation and songbook, transforming both in the bargain. On After Blue
, Sutton steps away from the "standard" Great American Songbook to what can be considered a "new" Great American (Canadian) Songbook, that of vocalist composer Joni Mitchell.
The last recording Sutton devoted to a single artist was 2001's Blue In Green
(Telarc), which was devoted to the compositions of pianist Bill Evans
. On that recording, Sutton took what was initially composed as instrumental music, giving it a voice and in doing so, revealing Evans' melodic gift. She does the same and expands the scope of Mitchell's songs, recasting them in new and refreshing ways.
Sutton performs a beautiful vocal alchemy with Mitchell's material. She steps far enough out of her jazz box of familiarity to transform her voice into a new force of nature. With perfect comfort, Sutton renews this material with her singing. These performances exist on an equal footing with the originals, not as imitations, but as complete re-assimilations. This is what interpretive art is meant to be. This swirling evolution is what makes Sutton one of the two or three most important vocalists in the post-Fitzgerald-Vaughan-Carter period.
Another area in which Sutton excels is in the collaborative arranging of these songs. She has always experimented with format and does not alter her modus operandi here. On "Blue," "All I Want," "Little Green," and "Both Sides Now," Sutton is backed by the Turtle Island String Quartet as arranged by first violinist David Balakrishnan. Sutton's soprano is well suited for this chamber treatment making these pieces exceptional, particularly "Blue" and "Both Sides Now."
Sutton favors vocal duets with solo instruments as on "Big Yellow Taxi" where she pairs with drummer Ralph Humphrey
. Frequent collaborator Larry Goldings
provides a moody piano on "Court and Spark" and "Woodstock" while he rocks the B3 on "Be Cool" (on which Sutton duets with Al Jarreau
). Sutton closes the disc with a mashup of "April in Paris" and "Free Man in Paris" backed only by Goldings, who provides a crepuscular mood to close this most excellent disc.
Personnel: Tierney Sutton: vocals; Hubert Laws: flute (5, 9); Peter Erskine: drums
(5, 9); Ralph Humphrey: drums (6); Larry Goldings: piano, B3 organ (3,
5, 7, 9, 12); Serge Merlaud: guitar (4, 10); Kevin Axt: bass (4); Al
Jarreau: vocals (9); Turtle Island String Quartet (1, 2, 8, 11).