Grammy Award nominee Tierney Sutton and her band give us smoking instrumentals, sensual vocals and an invitation to Get Happy.
Nine of the 13 tracks on Grammy Award nominee Tierney Sutton’s CD On the Other Side have the word "happy" or "unhappy" in the song title, while three others, “You Are My Sunshine”, “Great Day!” and “Smile”, carry strong suggestions that someone out there is happy. Sutton has not bought into, and one strongly suspects will never buy into, the notion that happiness is derived from how many records are sold, how many gigs are performed or how often a song or album charts well. She fully realizes those things are important to her career, but that is not how she measures happiness or success. In a recent interview, Sutton shared with me that collaboratively writing new arrangements for old songs, working closely with her band of 14 years, and going through the process of creating this new release (from Telarc) are the things that define happiness in her life.
Sutton introduces the Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler spiritual missive “Get Happy” with scat, before moving into the lyrics accompanied by the bass playing duo of Kevin Axt and Trey Henry, who provide an almost drone-like background for the singer. By midpoint, the song reaches a crescendo with Ray Brinker segueing from a syncopated beat to something a little more up-tempo, accompanied by crash cymbals.
Christian Jacob’s piano chops (and, in particular, his solo work on “Happy Days”) make this CD well worth the purchase price. Sutton’s vocal range is spectacular and she takes full advantage of it during this song.
Although song titles such as “Happy Days Are Here Again” and “You Are My Sunshine” may sound familiar, the arrangements will not be, and that is by design. Sutton uses words/phrases like "risky" and "not sure I was ready to sing" when describing the freeform arrangements created by the band members. The confidence to undertake a studio outing such as this comes from playing together for 14 years, and creating more than 100 collaborative arrangements. What the listener gets is an ensemble that sounds tight, a vocalist who reads confidently, and beautiful arrangements that are played effortlessly by superb musicians.
With every intonation, Sutton’s sensuality infuses the words to Howard Dietz’s “Haunted Heart” as she coos, “In the night, though we’re apart / There’s a ghost of you with --- in my haunted heart / Ghost of you, my lost romance / Lips that kiss, eyes that dance.” Sutton’s emotive vocals bring both sweet and heartbreaking reminders of past romances, as she provides a sensitive reading to a song that was used (recorded by another artist) to close the movie “The End of the Affair”.
Jack Sheldon, (Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Lena Horne) a pioneer of the West Coast jazz scene, provides guest vocals and trumpet work on the bebop scented “I Want To Be Happy”. Sheldon’s gravelly voice provides a good counterpoint to Sutton, while Jacob leads this musical charge with great chops.
The album’s total playing time is 60:04 and it is well worth listening to every second of every song.