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Dancing in the Dark by Tierney Sutton

Only five years after her first professional performance, Boston newspapers were complimenting Tierney Sutton with comparisons to the great Ella Fitzgerald. For most, the use of such a comparison would simply be exaggeration. But for this Wisconsin-born vocalist with superb intonation and rhythmic skills, and an ability to improvise with or without lyrics, the compliments are both honorable and well deserved.

Sutton was a Russian major at Wesleyan University when she first heard the greats and fell in love with jazz. A scholarship took her to Berklee College of Music in Boston, where within a few years she performed throughout New England, opening for such notables as Max Roach and the Billy Taylor Trio. In 1998, she was a semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk Jazz Vocal Competition. Her first solo CD, Introducing Tierney Sutton (1999), was released to rave reviews and nominated for a 1999 Indie Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album.

Since her Telarc debut, Unsung Heroes (2000), in which she took popular jazz standards that are usually performed instrumentally and put vocals to them, Tierney has become one of the critics’ most talked about jazz musicians.

Her second solo release on Telarc, Blue in Green (2001), was dedicated to pianist Bill Evans. The album and subsequent international tour earned glowing reviews and filled jazz venues across the U.S. and Europe. Tierney’s third CD for Telarc, Something Cool, (2002) remained high on the jazz charts in the spring of the 2003 and received extensive airplay across the U.S. and Europe.

Inspired by the music of Frank Sinatra, Dancing in the Dark, was released in February. The album spotlights the timeless ballads of one of America’s greatest singers. Dancing in the Dark features strings on a number of tracks, and the singer is backed by her trio of 10 years (pianist Christian Jacob, bassist Trey Henry and drummer Ray Brinker).

Whether she’s headlining at the Spoleto Jazz Festival in Charleston, the Sedona Jazz Festival in the Southwest or the Estoril Jazz Festival in Portugal, Tierney’s beauty, wit and technically superior voice have delighted the crowds and impressed even the most critical musicians. A versatile studio singer, her unique voice has been featured on a variety of television and movie soundtracks, including the new William H. Macy film The Cooler, as well as on commercials for BMW, Coca-Cola, Dodge and J.C. Penney.

The new album opens with the Irving Berlin composition What’ll I Do. Punctuated by Tierney’s alto vocals, this one is paced by Henry’s bass lines. All of the songs are wonderfully presented, but a few stand apart - including I’ll Be Around, Without You and Fly Me to the Moon. On these, more so than the other titles, Sutton and the musicians deliver an almost orchestral effect - a seamless blend of vocals and instruments that goes beyond merely providing accompaniment for the singer.

Another song that shows this side of Sutton and the group is the dramatic Emily, arguably the best song on the album. On this track, as with several others, Tierney’s voice is strong, yet light - taking on the essence of a flute that delivers words along with the beautiful sounds.

Although the album is somewhat of a tribute to Sinatra, Tierney makes it easy for the listener to disregard that fact, given her knack for embracing these titles and delivering the songs as if they were her own.

Throughout the disc, Sutton shows a great command of tone, injecting vibrato at just the right moments, offsetting that with an elegance that’s reminiscent of legendary jazz divas, but with a style that’s distinctly Tierney.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Tierney Sutton
  • CD Title: Dancing in the Dark
  • Genre: Jazz Vocals
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Telarc
  • Musicians: Every song on this CD collection is a gem, worthy of much airplay time.
  • Rating: Four Stars
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