The Tierney Sutton Band is a philosophical anomaly in the music world. The band has no diva, no boss, no black sheep. What they have is a team that allows them to take big chances and pull off the extraordinary in creating music. It's a matter of trust, shared values, and listening very carefully to each other. Sutton's music is literary in being not just beautiful noise; it is also specific mind frames that can't be expressed otherwise. On the album insert that accompanies Telarc's recording of On the Other Side Tierney writes, "In the United States, our founding fathers guaranteed us among other things, "the pursuit of happiness." I always found it amusing that we aren't guaranteed the thing itself, but rather the right to chase after it. Mystics tell us it is the chase that causes our problems Sometimes it seems to me what the Declaration of Independence really guarantees is a broken heart, but that's not the whole story Music is about the search." - Tierney Sutton (from the Telarc Jazz Record On the Other Side)
The Band, consisting of Tierney, Christian Jacob on piano, Kevin Axt and Trey Henry, and Ray Brinker on drums, has been together for close to fifteen years. In the last two years, they have released two remarkable albums with Telarc: I'm With The Band and On The Other Side. Both of these compilations show how seamlessly these very talented musicians work together and demonstrate Tierney's mastery of vocal music. I'm With The Band was Tierney's first live album and On the Other Side is her most daring concept record to date. On the Other Side is now ten months old.
The band has been touring on and off since it came out. A leg on the journey of The Tierney Sutton Band's search for happiness may be experienced during three shows at Catalina Bar and Grill in Los Angeles on December 29, 30, and 31, 2007.
Tierney Sutton: This will probably be the last thing we do in Los Angeles for a while. Then we go to Canada, to Toronto, for the Association of Jazz Educators Convention, but we are also doing a public show in Toronto the night before. Again we'll be on and off tour, but our summer stuff is firming up as well. It's going to be a bunch of dates on the East Coast and Europe. [The tour] never really does stop. We go on and off the road all year. We have chunks. This spring we're going to South Africa, Istanbul, and Europe for a four-week tour. We will do seventeen shows, and travel, and days to recover and stuff. We are doing a week long jazz workshop and performances in Aarau (Aargau) Switzerland. This chunk is in March and April.
Jazz Review: Tierney, if in addition to teaching workshops and master classes, are you mentoring any new singers?
Tierney Sutton: I'm working with a singer at USC named Sara Lieb, who is an excellent singer. There are a handful of students who I work with when I am on and off the road.
Jazz Review: You have mentored other extraordinary singers like Gretchen Parlato, are you still doing that?
Tierney Sutton: Well, she's like my Sis, man. I see her every time I'm in New York and we talk frequently. She's been in New York for about five or six years. She's working on a new album, they were just signing the deal, and getting everything set to record when I was out there last.
Jazz Review: Tierney your sound changes and grows from album to album. Do you feel that the arrangements evolve as the tour progresses?
Tierney Sutton: Definitely! It's always evolving and when we tour, we never tour a single record; there are things we do from the new record. Sometimes we don't do that much from the new record. If we are going somewhere where we haven't been since the new record's been released we make sure to do some. We have over one hundred things to choose from now. We are as likely to do something from our first record as we are from this one, and sometimes it does get tricky to have a balanced show, because there are so many things that people do want to hear.
Jazz Review: What songs are the most requested?
Tierney Sutton: I'd say 'Ding Dong The Witch is Dead' and 'Something Cool,' but there are nights we don't do either of those.
Jazz Review: How is this beautiful yet different album being received on the world wide stage?
Tierney Sutton: It's a literary thing in a way. It’s a literary statement to a certain degree, because we're working with this concept of happiness and all the rest of it. You know we toured in Italy and England this summer and we spent almost two weeks in Italy we did Umbria jazz. We did seven shows there and we did a show in Rome and then we went to England and I have to say I was very relieved to get to an English speaking audience only because I could set things up in a certain way but the music has been received pretty much the same. The European jazz audience is very sophisticated.
Jazz Review: What are you working on for the next album?
Tierney Sutton: Right now, we are working on an idea about doing some collaborative arranging with Johnny Mandel, Bill Ullman, and Sammy Nestico. Those are the people we are talking to and I believe each of them will do a couple of arrangements for us and with us. We'll pick new material to arrange. I think this will be a combination of things. Johnny has already said he wants us to arrange, first, the things we do with him and then he might write strings over it. It will definitely be whatever our concept is. And then he'll hop on board, we hope. I think we will be working with Sammy and Bill too, getting ideas and input to a certain degree, but they will also have the freedom to do what they want and then there will be a chunk of the record that will be just us doing what we do.
Jazz Review: Three additional arrangers, it sounds very intriguing. On the record, On The Other Side, Jack Sheldon played and did vocals on one cut. Will there be additional musical collaboration and if so would they be touring with additional musicians?
Tierney Sutton: There will probably be an addition of strings and probably some big band stuff too. We haven't toured with a big band but those things do come up from time to time and I imagine anything we do with a big band or with strings, we'll find a way to do it without, with just us. We do collaborate with orchestras and before we go to Europe, we will be doing a show in February with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Jazz Review: Those things are lovely and wonderful to do I believe it is fair to say that no other musician has recorded Happy Days in the fashion that Tierney has, the song begins with an utterly stark and mesmerizing drum intro by Ray Brinker, on which Tierney glides in and demonstrates a mystical understanding of the arrangement and the magnificent range of her voice. The talent, trumpet, and witty repartee between Tierney and Jack Sheldon on "I Want to Be Happy," add the right touch on comic relief. The band tours some of their happiest music, such as "Glad To Be Unhappy," "Make Someone Happy," and "Smile," for a full sixty-minute hour.
Off stage and in the studio, The Tierney Sutton Band has done an episode of the TV show Journeyman, "Year of the Rabbit" in which they performed "I've Got You Under My Skin," and Tierney has sung in the background on an episode of "Samantha Who." In her quest for ubiquity, Tierney has also done a commercial for Green Giant, which has not aired yet.
In the quest for the elusive happiness, The Tierney Sutton Band is doing far more than their share by creating music that can be a beacon in a disjointed and sometimes too sad world.