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Published: Thursday, 10/3/2013

Sounds| Music Review

After Blue by Tierney Sutton


If I had to come up with a short list of favorite jazz divas, Tierney Sutton would be on it. The five-time Grammy nominee has a gorgeous voice, but she also understands jazz and all of its nuances, from effective pauses to syncopation that put the listener into a trance and whet appetites with both the familiar and the unexpected.

She has the vocal dexterity of a female Jon Hendricks, Toledo's father of vocalese. On this incredible disc, Sutton moves away from her comfort zone - a jazz singer with a Great American Songbook background - and tackles the music of pop icon Joni Mitchell. It's not just another pop tribute to Mitchell, but one with a serious reinterpretation through jazz, which Sutton makes a much smoother fit than Mitchell fans might think possible.

Sutton's vocals are crisp, the album's musicianship is spectacular, and there are times she sounds more like Joni Mitchell than Joni Mitchell.

"I knew Mitchell's music was not something I could glance at and then perform," Sutton wrote in the album's liner notes. "I had to live with it - for years - like her fans who had absorbed the music in their youth. I wanted to 'marinate' in Joni Mitchell."

Sutton is joined by James Taylor's longtime pianist-organist, Larry Goldings, former Weather Report drummer Peter Erskine, jazz singer Al Jarreau, jazz flute legend Hubert Laws and Ralph Humphrey, a one-time member of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.

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