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JazzWeek Vocalist of the Year 2005
Vocalist Tierney Sutton interprets the work of an entertainment legend with the release of Dancing in the Dark: Inspired by the Music of Frank Sinatra. Inspired by the music of Frank Sinatra, Sutton's fourth Telarc recording features her longstanding quartet of Christian Jacob on piano, Trey Henry on bass and Ray Brinker on drums.
Produced by Elaine Martone, Dancing in the Dark recreates some of the drama of the life, emotion and spirit that was Sinatra. The follow-up to Sutton's acclaimed Something Cool, this album of predominantly ballads includes hits like "All the Way," "Fly Me to the Moon" and "What'll I Do," as well as overlooked gems such as "I'll Be Around," "Emily" and "I Think of You." The recording features strings on a number of tracks, and liner notes by renowned New York radio personality Jonathan Schwartz.
Sutton says, "The band used the same arranging process for the strings that we've used to arrange all of our albums. Of course, Christian Jacob did all of the orchestration, but we consulted quite a bit about what we wanted. The other thing that Christian did, that I think is somewhat unique, is that he arranged around our improvised ideas. That way the strings emerge organically out of our group process."
She adds, "After spending a lot of time with Sinatra's ballad records, I think of those as the essential Sinatra and wanted to pay tribute. The media image I grew up with was the happy-go-lucky Sinatra, but it's the darkness that fascinates me more."
"These songs are fantastic, finely crafted tunes and they're accessible to everyone," says Martone, producer of all four of Sutton's Telarc recordings. "Before we went into the studio, Tierney and I talked about a variety of Sinatra tunes. But once we began recording, it became clear to us that we were doing an album of ballads. Right away, we knew we wanted to include 'Without a Song' and finish with 'Last Dance.' The rest of the session was spent delving into what Tierney wanted to express about her relationship to the songs. We were interested in constructing the CD as a journey from hope to despair back to hope."
It takes courage to record Sinatra, especially considering the current glut of tributes, reissues and outtakes. But according to Sutton, "If you're passionate about what you do, then you don't think in that way. Instead, I sing music that I like to listen to, and I listen to a lot of Sinatra."
Even though Sinatra's songbook is immense, much of it has been forgotten. "There are lots of songs that almost no one records, like 'I Think of You,'" says Sutton. "Although many of the songs that we chose were not big hits for Sinatra, in each case I felt his commitment to the song, either because he had recorded it more than once or because his version remains the standard."
At times heartbreaking, at times cool, Dancing in the Dark is always mesmerizing. Sinatra's career—like his life—was often a dramatic and emotional rollercoaster. The synergy between Sutton's striking vocal technique and Sinatra's timeless material helps enlighten his legacy.
Scheduled to coincide with the release of Dancing in the Dark, Sutton has a four-week engagement in the famed Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel in New York from February 17 to March 13, 2004.