Material: With the Grammys and Oscars just weeks away, the versatile veteran jazz vocalist and her seamless, longtime ensemble were all about celebrating her ninth “Best Jazz Vocal Album” nomination for Screenplay, their exquisitely produced, imaginatively arranged ode to some of Hollywood’s most beautiful, memorable and sometimes quirky film songs. These ran the gamut from a sly and hypnotic, scat-filled duet with Brinker on “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” to a feisty, Latin tinged romp through “You’re The One That I Want,” to a snappy and frequently hilarious stroll through two Wizard of Oz songs NOT named “Over The Rainbow” (though that was referenced). The highlight of the set was a suite celebrating “all aspects of Bergman love,” featuring classics with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. The 94-year old Alan Bergman brought his exquisite, understated voice to several of these and held the audience rapt, singing solo and swinging through another of his classics, “Nice ‘N’ Easy.”
Performance: Enjoying the effortless chemistry and snazzy camaraderie between herself and her highly celebrated ensemble, Sutton is charming, engaging and compelling whether she’s expressing the heartfelt intimacy of a ballad, swinging fast with the guys, wrapping her vocals around spiraling electric and acoustic bass lines or sharing the funky delights of the Wicked Witch and Scarecrow. With her nimble phrasing and effortless shifts in tone and spirit from tune to tune, she is a master storyteller both as an interpreter and purveyor of colorful anecdotes. Clearly by design, she at times humbly allowed Bergman, one of her songwriting heroes, to take the audience on a whole other journey that she seemed happy to be a part of as well.
Musicianship: Formed over two decades ago, The Tierney Sutton Band has been a mainstay on the jazz scene, thanks to that batch of Grammy-nominated recordings and fresh, colorful arrangements that allow Sutton and her crystalline voice to mine multiple shades of emotional gold from songs people think they know, yet understand more intimately and dynamically thanks to her approach. In addition to dynamic harmonies and grooves from her core band, she also effectively showcased her husband, electric guitarist Serge Merlaud, on a few numbers.
Summary: Some of the most enduring popular songs of the past century originated in films, and Sutton and her wonderful band celebrated this legacy with an eclectic set full of tears, laughter, wonder and surprises. She closed with another Bergman gem, “The Way We Were,” hopefully setting the stage for more Hollywood swinging to come in the future.
Contact: Jodi Jackson, Joddith@aol.com
Players: Tierney Sutton, vocals; Alan Bergman, vocals; Christian Jacob, piano; Kevin Axt, upright bass; Trey Henry, electric bass; Ray Brinker, drums/percussion; Serge Merlaud, guitar