Monday, January 16, 2012
Winter Listening (Part 1)
Sutton is famous for her "cooperative" approach to the band's repertoire; the arrangements on "American Road" are credited to the entire band and there's nary a false note on the CD. Opening with a highly rhythmic version of "Wayfaring Stranger" which leads into a reverential take of "Oh Shenandoah" that is paired with the Scottish folk song "The Water is Wide." Up next is a highly charged reading of the Mann/Weill/Lieber/Stoller classic "On Broadway." Built off of Brinker's
powerful percussion and throbbing electric bass, Ms. Sutton really digs into the lyrics, standing aside for Jacobs' wonderfully angular solo. The group's intelligent reworking of "Amazing Grace" shows reverence for the original at the onset then a subtle and sweet move into a blend of gospel, jazz and blues.
Purists might object to the heavy backbeat on "It Ain't Necessarily So" but it's a solid lead-in to the trio of songs from "Porgy & Bess" - here, "Summertime" is slow, sultry and impressionistic while "My Man's Gone Now" has a sweet, funky, feel.
Before Ms. Sutton moves to "West Side Story", she and Jacobs take a Debussy meets Teddy Wilson approach to "Tenderly"; then, she and the bassists do a short, bouncy, version of Yip Harburg-Harold Arlen's "The Eagle and Me." Bernstein-Sondheim's "Somewhere" is often approached in a overly emotional fashion. Here, it is a lovely ballad, filled with feeling yes but neither cloying nor overblown. The band's approach to "Something's Coming/Cool" puts the excitement in the vocal and not in an incessant rhythm - the second tune gets the energy, especially in the "running" bass line.
The program closes with "America The Beautiful", another song that can be too dramatic. Ms. Sutton avoids melismatic swoops or any other vocal acrobatics. Instead, she caresses the melody, opting to begin with a verse of wordless vocals before moving into the lyrics. As opposed to many who sing this song (including a politician currently campaigning for the presidential nomination) as a patriotic screed, Ms. Sutton understands the message of acceptance and brotherhood in the lyrics. Just her voice and Jacobs' fine piano accompaniment, a fitting close to an adventurous program.
"American Road" is a journey that takes the listener deep into songs that, for the most part, have had had an emotional impact on Americans, doing so without being jingoistic or snide. Instead, the Tierney Sutton Band celebrates the breadth of this country's music, making the listener pay attention to the words and feelings in each song. For more information, go to www.tierneysutton.com.
Other highlights include the bluesy ballad "The Road That Reminds", where the tenor saxophone and muted trumpet move together in wonderful dialogue before Blake moves out for a heartfelt (and pleasingly long) solo. Late in the piece, the bass and drums drop out, leaving Blake and Palmer locked in a musical conversation that comes to a satisfying conclusion. "You Cry So Pretty" is a lovely ballad, not cloying or sentimental but gentle with a sweetness that brings the listener back to dwell in its warmth.
Honestly, there is not a weak track on "The Aquarian Suite" plus the interaction of the musicians is a joy to behold. Yes, there are moments when the music "swings" with a vengeance and it makes one wish to see and hear this music in a performance space. Go to www.bjurecords.com/DBlake.html and find out more about this excellent recording and the man behind its creation.
Here's the effervescent "How It's Done", courtesy of BJU Records and IODA Promonet - click on the link and enjoy!
How It's Done (mp3)
There are scores of recordings dedicated to the music of Thelonious Monk, some with very fancy rearrangements and odd choices for instrumentation. Here, Jimmy Owens and company do it right. They play this music with joy, love and great spirit (Gordon, in particular, sounds like he's having the time of his life while Harper plays his butt off.) This music is timeless and worth your time. To find out more, go to jimmyowensjazz.com.
Even if you are not a fan of David Bowie's music, The Wee Trio's exuberance and intelligent arrangements should please fans of creative music. Plus, the group really knows how to "rock out!" To find out more, go to www.theweetrio.com.