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American Road

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Album Review

Tierney Sutton has long been a wide-ranging explorer as a vocalist, not satisfied with the standard jazz canon or typical approaches to songs. Together with her long-running band (pianist Christian Jacob, bassists Trey Henry and Kevin Axt, plus drummer Ray Brinker, all but one of whom have been with her since prior to her 1998 debut CD), Sutton finds songs she likes and works with her musicians to create provocative arrangements that keep the essence of melodies within reach while making thoughtful use of space and surprising rhythms. Opening with a focus on traditional songs, Sutton's warm voice is complemented by Brinker's hip backbeat and Jacob's darting piano. Her medley of "Oh Shenandoah" and "The Water Is Wide" is full of surprises, with her rich wordless vocal in the former bracketing the latter as its centerpiece, with Jacob interweaving "Oh Shenandoah" into his backing of the singer in "The Water Is Wide." The humorous introduction to George Gershwin's "It Ain't Necessarily So" sounds like one of the two themes from Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse," though the piece quickly takes an ominous turn in Sutton's dramatic, driving setting. Two more pieces from Porgy and Bess follow, a harmonically rich yet melancholy "Summertime" and a powerful "My Man's Gone Now" that incorporates an insistent vamp to increase its emotional impact. Sutton also explores the music of Broadway with three selections from the Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim hit musical West Side Story, highlighted by her moving treatment of "Somewhere." The finale is a harmonically rich duet with Jacob of "America the Beautiful," a beloved song that jazz vocalists have long overlooked.

American Road, The Tierney Sutton Band
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