Pin It
Favorite

Get Less Happy 

by Michael Bowen & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & ierney Sutton doesn't simply take upbeat jazz standards and make them sad. With her aching soprano, she illuminates the desolation within.





Her new release on Telarc this month, On the Other Side, is a minor-key study in discontent. Nearly every track has the word "happy" in the title, but Sutton renders the lyrics into melancholy. We've all experienced loss, she seems to say, so we should explore our emotions instead of seeking escape from them.


Her renditions stand in opposition to the forces of materialism and blind optimism -- what she calls "this vaguely oppressive drumbeat in our society to be all skippy-happy-peppy -- sometimes not so vague." But Sutton still clings to the hope of transcending this world: In Harold Arlen's "Get Happy," for example, she paints a vision of how "it's all so peaceful / on the other side."





But the music, she emphasizes, takes priority over the philosophizing -- as in her method of composing her version of "You Are My Sunshine." Most of us can sing the hokey version of this tune, but Sutton recalls being in her studio one day before her trio arrived, "and I just kept coming back to this ostinato, and that gave it a real darkness. And I knew that if I gave that to them, they'd make something beautiful."





& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & S & lt;/span & utton's audiences are eclectic (not just jazz-oriented) in their tastes, perhaps because she was that way herself when she started out. She listened to "whatever was in pop culture -- Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor -- music with a strong jazz influence." She wasn't exposed to jazz herself in any intentional way until she was 19. "I had a job as a singing cocktail waitress in Wisconsin," she recalls. "And they were playing jazz across the street, and on my rare nights off, I would go over and listen to them. And I realized they were so good, even with an organ and an accordion and a drummer from Oshkosh. Harmonically, I appreciated them a lot. All the songs were standards, and there was a real integrity to it."





She's singing the standards herself now. The first half of Saturday night's concert will feature the Spokane Jazz Orchestra playing arrangements of tunes by Thelonius Monk, Count Basie and others. After intermission, Sutton will front the big band in arrangements of songs that she has recorded on her some of her seven albums. Then the highlight: Tierney and her trio wringing sadness and beauty out of works from the Great American Songbook.





Sutton doesn't simply wrestle with the sadness and beauty; she feels it herself too. "We were at a workshop in Florida," she says, "and someone requested a tune off our Bill Evans album that we hadn't played in about four years. And it was amazing how new it seemed. Just beautiful. And at the end, I said, 'Well, I got all choked up.' And it's true -- if we're really good and I'm really on, I'm just like a spectator when I'm up there onstage -- an observer of those emotions."





Tierney Sutton with the Spokane Jazz Orchestra on Saturday, March 10, at 8 pm at the Bing. Tickets: $26.50-$31.50. Visit www.tierneysutton.com or www.ticketswest.com or call 325-SEAT.
  • Pin It

Latest in Comment

  • Women's Movement
  • Women's Movement

    The Zags are thrilling their fans and filling the stands in a way few women's programs are anywhere
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • Cultural Warrior
  • Cultural Warrior

    Publisher's Note
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • Sorry, Senator Risch
  • Sorry, Senator Risch

    But transparency isn't the problem with torture
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun
Campbell House Holidays

Campbell House Holidays @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Jan. 4

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Michael Bowen

Most Commented On

  • Game Changer

    Since Condon became mayor, Jan Quintrall has been responsible for some of the biggest changes in the city of Spokane — and some of its biggest controversies
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • Let Us Breathe

    Spokane joins national protests over the failure to indict white officers for killing black civilians
    • Dec 10, 2014
  • More »

© 2014 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation