Tierney Sutton has "paid her dues". This is her fourth Telarc recording in the in the past four years. Do not be surprised if this is the one that pushes her over the boundary that will enable her to be regarded as one of the generation's next great jazz vocalists.
This album's release, scheduled for February 10th, 2004 and her wide-ranging subsequent tour is likely to be the needed impetus. As usual here she is backed by her trio consisting of Christian Jacob on the piano, Trey Henry, bass and Ray Brinker, drums. Collectively they are (with Tierney) known as the Tierney Sutton Quartet. For this recording a few of the tracks have a string section added. That addition definitely can affect a listener's perception. Does it add a feeling of a richer, fuller more impressive production or does it seem to lose a sense of intimacy?
The subtitling of "Inspired by the music of Frank Sinatra" could just have easily been stated as "Honoring the music of Frank Sinatra. Tierney has said that she grew up with Sinatra's image as a happy-go-lucky guy but she had been more fascinated by his darker side. This directly led to the choice of mainly ballads for this album. As we all know, Sinatra literally recorded many hundreds of songs over his long and distinguished career. In no way is this album a "Best Of" or "Greatest Hits" release. Tierney claimed that her choices to record were based on Sinatra's seeming commitment to those songs as demonstrated by his multiple recordings of the selection or because his version has been widely regarded as "the standard". The dozen choices include "Fly Me to the Moon", What'll I Do, Only the Lonely, I Think of You, Without a Song and Last Dance. Obviously this well-rounded collection is not just Sinatra's big hits. A quote from Tierney Sutton should explain her feelings. "Thanks to Frank Sinatra whose singing represents what great mystical art aspires to: both the light of reunion and the fire of separation -- what more could we have asked?"
Her usual accompanying trio provides almost flawless performances as would be expected. Tierney's performances seem quite excellent to me and what I would call "quite classy". Many things, including intangibles and perhaps a bit of luck have to come together before she is considered to be one of the new generation's great jazz singers. She's her own person. On this recording, Tierney makes no effort to imitate any other vocalist that comes to my mind - male or female. Listen to her rendition of All the Way or I'll Be Around as prime examples of her stylish uniqueness. When used to a song performed a certain way, then when heard done in a somewhat different manner, any variations are perceived as unusual. Unusual can easily become "just not quite right". Listen to the songs you are not very familiar with first as you enjoy and evaluate this new release. Listen to them a few times before evaluating the ones you are familiar with. Evaluated in that manner I found her performances to be quite excellent right down to and including her personal inflections and shadings. She is not an imitator.
Everyone performing on this recording is treated pretty much equally. Sutton is not particularly highlighted by recording engineer Michael Bishop. The perspective in all dimensions is quite natural. However the instrumentalists are not always treated equally. At times the bass is "more equal" than the others. This is particularly evident in the first selection if played at a high volume or gain setting. At moderate listening levels it is simply full or rich sounding. Also evident in the first selection and elsewhere is the outstanding accompaniment of Christian Jacob on the piano. Hints of overemphasis in the entire bass end of the audio spectrum are found in much of this recording, again if played at a "loud" listening level. This was true whether played on the Sony SACD multi-channel player in my home theater system or the outstanding Cary CD player with my two channel stereo system. With only that slight caveat in mind, this new Telarc recording is warmly recommended; after all it may be featuring our next great female jazz vocalist.