West Coast jazz baby Tierney Sutton has little direct contact with her audience, instead focusing heavenward, as if in a trance. Insightful and imaginative, Sutton finds new depths in some old songs. If the lyrics are often rushed or given short shrift, she digs much deeper into the musical design of a familiar composition and creates a structured jazz portrait that’s freshly minted. Her scatting boasts a clean airborne quality, and the lady can swing.
A big asset is the assured assist from her trio, which has been with Sutton long enough to bond with an uncanny display of spirit and unity. Drummer Ray Brinker exhibits some of the most amazing brushwork, deftly illustrated at a devilishly racing tempo for “The Lady Is a Tramp.”
Sutton confesses to her audience that she will be taking the Great American Songbook on an adventurous ride, noting that the year could be 1935 or 2025. “Music is eternal,” the singer adds, making a clear illustration of the point with a driving presentation of “Cheek to Cheek” and a plaintively sensuous turn on “Haunted Heart.”
Centerpiece of her program is a Rodgers and Hammerstein medley that showcases her trio. “People Will Say We’re in Love” features the well-tempered accompaniment of bassist Kevin Axt; “Surrey With the Fringe on Top” is supported by the clip-clop of Brinker’s brushes. Perhaps the most poignant moment of the evening is “If I Loved You,” eloquently framed by pianist Christian Jacob. Both wispy and lofty, Sutton reveals the depth and breathless yearning of first love.
There’s always a nod to Frank Sinatra in a Sutton performance, and this time around she reprised “Without a Song” from her Telarc CD “Dancing in the Dark.” Ol’ Blue Eyes recorded it at tempos both gentle and swinging. Sutton takes a lazy pace with a warming caress that affirms its message, “There ain’t no love at all without a song.”