Tierney Sutton | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Tierney Sutton 

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In recent years, most younger vocalists in jazz have possessed a certain ruggedness--the smoky tones of Cassandra Wilson and Jeanie Bryson, the growling baritone of Kevin Mahogany, the take-no-prisoners improvisations of Kurt Elling. Tierney Sutton bucks that trend with an unusually pure, uncomplicated soprano, the kind you often hear from a folk-rock diva. She abstains from the affectations that most jazz singers, for better or worse, use to establish their individuality--and this paradoxically gives her voice an individuality of its own, like a piece of precisely crafted porcelain among blocks of granite and marble. Sutton uses her delicate timbre to imbue her repertoire with a translucent glow, but keeps the focus tight with smart note choices and rigorous musicianship; she can play with the beat even as she nails each pitch. Given all this, it's no surprise that she's gravitated toward the work of Bill Evans, whose light swing, ethereal harmonies, and steely intellect made him arguably the most influential pianist of the past 40 years. For Sutton's new disc, Blue in Green (Telarc), the Milwaukee-born singer has built an entire program from songs associated with the iconic pianist, including five of his own compositions (among them "Waltz for Debby," the lesser-known "Very Early," and the title track, attributed to Miles Davis but now generally accepted as Evans's work). The synergy between material and technique heightens the inherent loveliness of Sutton's sound: of her three albums, this is the first to really get people buzzing, and just in time for her Chicago debut. Sutton arrives in town minus her regular collaborator, pianist Christian Jacob. But one advantage of coming to Chicago is the wealth of terrific sidemen available, and she's assembled a top-notch local trio of Shelly Berg (piano), Eric Hochberg (bass), and Paul Wertico (drums). Friday, August 10, 12:30 PM, Borders Books & Music, 150 N. State; 312-606-0750. Friday, August 10, 9 PM, Pops for Champagne, 2934 N. Sheffield; 773-472-1000. Sunday, August 12, 11 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552.

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