JazzWeek Vocalist of the Year 2005
"As much as I love great singers—Bobby McFerrin and Al Jarreau—and no one's better than Sarah and Ella, my biggest influences were instrumentalists like Miles and Coltrane." —Tierney Sutton
Vocalist Tierney Sutton has something significant to say and the technique with which to say it. On Unsung Heroes, she takes popular jazz standards that are commonly known as instrumentals and performs them with vocals. Her Telarc debut presents an intelligent grouping of bold interpretations, impeccably sung—Sutton reinvents a song and looks at it in a new way.
Unsung Heroes also represents a journey—even the sequence of the tunes has spiritual integrity. (Sutton is a Baha'i, as was Dizzy Gillespie.) Sutton's singing displays its unique and immediately identifiable sound and style on the album opener, Joe Henderson's "Remember Me (Recordame)." Her take on Ralph Burns' "Early Autumn" has just the right sultry lilt. She recasts pieces such as Jimmy Rowles' "A Timeless Place (The Peacocks)" and Wayne Shorter's "All for One (Speak No Evil)" into a form that brings new illumination to each song. Kenny Barron's arrangement inspired her to include Rodgers and Hart's "Spring Is Here."
She infuses Bennie Carter's "When Lights Are Low" with a playful romantic buoyancy, then scores again with a version of "Indiana /Donna Lee," featuring Gary Foster on alto saxophone, that conveys a Charlie Parker-like authority. Sutton says "Listen to instrumentalists, be an instrument, function as an instrument. The best singers sound like instrumentalists and the best instrumentalists sound like singers." At the end of the CD, Sutton's beautifully focused version of Dizzy Gillespie's "Con Alma" finds the heart of each lyric, giving it an almost prayerful resonance.
Sometimes jazz musicians aren't exposed to concertgoers across the country before they begin a solo career. Sometimes they seem to come out of nowhere. Tierney Sutton, who works frequently with famed horn player Buddy Childers' Quintet and Big Band, doesn't come out of nowhere. She studied at Berklee College of Music, has performed at many jazz festivals both here and abroad, and her 1997 debut album, Introducing Tierney Sutton (A-Records), generated enthusiastic responses. In 1998, she was a semi-finalist in the Thelonius Monk Vocal Competition. Childers has declared that she is the best singer he has ever heard since he joined the Stan Kenton band 55 years ago.
On Unsung Heroes, Sutton is backed by her longtime rhythm section of pianist Christian Jacob, bassist Trey Henry (with Ken Wild on 2 tracks), and drummer Ray Brinker. Special guest soloists include Childers on flugelhorn, guitarist Jamie Findlay, saxophonist and flutist Gary Foster, and trombonist Alan Kaplan.
The name Tierney Sutton may not be familiar to many jazz fans — at least not yet. But, with the release of Unsung Heroes, we will surely be hearing her name—along with the superb music she makes—a lot more.