Tierney Sutton Biography

28 June 1963, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. Born into a musical household, Sutton listened to and appeared in numerous local productions of musical comedies and operas, usually as a member of the chorus. While studying Russian at Wesleyan University, she encountered Bill Barron, head of the music department, and artist-in-residence, Ed Blackwell. She also heard several leading visiting jazz musicians, including Betty Carter, the Heath Brothers and Billy Taylor. All of this imbued her with the desire to become a jazz singer and she was soon singing a regular gig at a leading local jazz club. She was awarded a scholarship to the Berklee College Of Music in Boston and while there sang at clubs in New England and also at festivals. She also visited Europe, all the while honing her developing talent.

Settling in Los Angeles, Sutton sang with artists such as Shelly Berg, Al ‘Tootie’ Heath, Joe LaBarbera, Roy McCurdy, Thom Rotella, Jack Sheldon and Buddy Childers. With Childers, she has sung with small and large groups and appeared on Buddy Childers: Big Band ’98 and A Great Day In Hancock Park, and she also sang with the band at a Stan Kenton Convention. Sutton has also sung on several film and television soundtracks as well as making numerous television advertisements. She is also active in jazz education, heading the Jazz Vocal Department at the University of Southern California. In 1998, she was a semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk Institute’s Jazz Vocal Competition.

Sutton’s first solo recording was well received by press and public, reaching the Top 50 in the Gavin Jazz Radio charts and being nominated for a 1999 ‘Indie’ as Best Jazz Vocal Album. Her upward progress continued with her Telarc Records debut Unsung Heroes, on which she sang lyrics to songs usually performed as instrumentals. The album received rave reviews and Tierney came second in the JazzTimes Readers Poll as Best New Jazz Artist. In 2001, Sutton visited Thailand and also released a new album, the Bill Evans tribute Blue In Green, which seemed to set her firmly in the consciousness of the jazz audience. The eclectic Something Cool saw Sutton tackling a broad range of classic American songs drawn from jazz, rock, country and stage. Inspired by the music of Frank Sinatra, the 2004 recording Dancing In The Dark was a notable commercial success and reached the US Jazz Top 10. The equally accomplished I’m With The Band, recorded live at Birdland, gave Sutton’s long-serving band (pianist Christian Jacob, drummer Ray Brinker and bass players Trey Henry and Kevin Axt) a chance to shine. The album received a Grammy nomination at the end of 2005.

Sutton’s musical skills are extensive and while her interpretative gifts are sometimes at odds with the lyrics she sings, she more than compensates through the application of her considerable improvisational abilities. She has a secure, wide ranging singing voice with a pleasingly uncluttered style and also displays a penchant for singing jazz works with rarely heard lyrics or with new lyrics.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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