Tierney Sutton Band: "ScreenPlay" review on All About Jazz
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Cinema-related "standards" have been fertile territory for musicians to harvest ever since Al Jolson walked miles for smiles. With Screenplay, 8-time Grammy-nominated vocalist Tierney Sutton—here as the Tierney Sutton Band—takes a fascinating retrospective, delivering fifteen tunes we have often heard— but never this creatively. The result is a showcase that is unique, engaging, and—in terms of how Sutton, pianist Christian Jacob, bassists Trey Henry and Kevin Axt and drummer Ray Brinker collectively speak—brilliant.
"The Windmills of Your Mind" spins slowly with a Brinker cymbal "drone," Jacob's keys sparkling, and Sutton poetic. "Moon River" is paired with the lesser-known "Calling You" in which Sutton's lyric and dynamic delivery is Siren-seductive, drawing us in to both rainbow's end and desert zephyrs. "On a Clear Day" is a swinger with Sutton and Henry whipping up a tempest before a torrid Jacob trip and Brinker burning. Sutton inquires "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life" fairly straightforwardly in a stunningly beautiful duo with Jacob. The rarely heard "I've Got No Strings," here a ballad, adds those of guitarist Serge Merlaud to Sutton's truth-telling. With "If I Only Had a Brain" Sutton cooks soulful with funkster Kevin Axt's electric bass and Henry's arco working a savvy complement.
Simon and Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence" plays like a Medieval chanson with Sutton the trobairitz. Stephen Sondheim's "Goodbye for Now" is a dark, deep farewell. "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" dazzles with Sutton scat-singing over Brinker's Fred Astaire-like brushes. "Hopelessly Devoted to You," taken slower than usual, and the rhythmically- driving "You're the One That I Want" are interesting no-ham cuts. Alan Bergman makes a cameo appearance with Sutton on "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" and it is a touching entendre. Sutton and Jacob haunt on "Ev'ry Now and Then" and "It Might Be You." Both those tracks are gems. "Arrow," which Sutton and Jacob wrote for Clint Eastwood's Sully (Warner Bros. 2016) soundtrack closes the session dream-like.
Sutton's vocal chops and her phrasing are impeccable. Not only is she dead-on pitch, but, her instrument—and the way she handles it across the dynamic spectrum—enables her to derive new imagery from the vintage material. The effect is so stunningly beautiful and emotionally profound that it seems as if we are hearing these classics come prima. As expected, the support work of Jacob, Henry, Axt and Brinker is superb. Additionally, the arrangements are so creative, so colorfully savvy, that the ensemble takes on the dimension of a "vocalized orchestra."
The Tierney Sutton Band does much more than revive memories. Through the creative efforts of these masterful musicians, glorious melodies and their poetic lyrics are elevated and brilliantly honored. It is an aural Oscar. With Screenplay the play is indeed the thing.
Track Listing: The Windmills Of Your Mind; Moon River/Calling You; On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever); What Are You Doing For The Rest Of Your Life?; I've Got No Strings; If I Only Had A Brain; The Sound Of Silence; Goodbye For Now; Diamond's Are A Girl's Best Friend; Hopelessly Devoted To You; You're The One That I Want; How Do You Keep The Music Playing; Ev'ry Now And Then; It Might Be You; Arrow.
Personnel: Tierney Sutton: vocals; Christian Jacob: piano; Kevin Axt: bass; Trey Henry: bass; Ray Brinker: drums/percussion; Serge Merlaud: guitar (5, 12, 14); Alan Bergman: vocals (12).