by Jan Stevens,
are so many treats in this album, its hard to know where to
start. Vocalist Tierney Sutton has navigated some challenging material
here, all of it associated with or composed by Bill Evans, and though
its a bona fide vocal success, it is as much a small-group
arranging triumph as anything else. The ensemble on "Blue in Green" is the emphasis, and the interaction between Tierney and
her trio works beautifully. Ms. Sutton doesnt just lay down
the melody and then disappear for solos; she often weaves in and
out, often taking a half-chorus here and there, inventing melodies
herself, while always seeming cognizant of the group sound. She
possesses a rich, sensual alto sweetness, yet is never coy or cute.
Her genuine musicianship is evident throughout. As she explains
to writer Bob Blumenthal in the liner notes: Bill Evans was
huge in my development. The thing that Bill gave me was the idea
that jazz didnt have to be loud; it could be swinging, sensual
an beautiful without overblown drama. He let me know that there
a place for me in jazz, that I could use my voice in this manner.
He had introduced something new and fresh -- that bittersweet, harmonic
sense of his, never too sweet, with that undercurrent of tragedy.
These tunes, even some so well-worn like Fats Wallers
Just Squeeze Me and Old Devil Moon display
a creativity and empathy of execution between artist and accompaniment
that make them seem fresh and void of cliche. The charts are unique:
Someday My Prince Will Come comes in with an understated
Latin groove, before Sutton frees it into a slow-swinging casual
The first section of Autumn Leaves is harmonically and
rhythmically altered in way you may not have heard anywhere before,
yet remains anchored by the contours of the melodic line, before
it breaks into a brisk light swing. Its a very involving arrangement,
and wreaks with intelligent musicality. I found myself playing it
again and again.
Just You Just Me --- a song more closely associated
with Nat Cole --- is just vocal and bass, as is the lovely Sometime
Ago -- and Ms. Sutton easily scats through a chorus or two,
and its just a fun romp that works beautifully. I especially
loved hearing Very Early introduced very slow with just
piano -- we hear clearly the structure, and that beautiful lilting
Evans melody. Christian Jacob then takes the solo in four, instead
of the original 3/4 time, and were treated to a rich tapestry
of colors and a stellar understanding of the complex chord movement
of one of Bills compositions.
Turn Out The Stars -- a challenging task indeed to sing,
due to its extreme changes of key centers, and its wide leaps in
melody -- gets a similar reading. Doing it just once through was
a brilliant choice -- as a composition it is so full of its own
inherent inventiveness and its stands alone. And Ms. Sutton makes
it all sounds so easy, which its not. She gets deep enough
inside it, but doesnt resort to any overwrought interpretation.
Another clever idea was the brief medley version of Bills
Waltz For Debby which leads right into Tiffany
and back again. The songs subject, one Tiffany LaBarbera,
wrote a lyric herself to Bills melody, and her dad (The Evans
trios drummer 1978-1980) gets to play on it. A very nice touch,
and another intelligent performance.
Pianist Christian Jacob is amazingly sensitive, richly chording
and shading harmonically with a beautiful touch and an intuitive
sense of harmonic substitution space and subtlety (his playing on
Very Early and Detour Ahead is exemplary)
and can also swing with great abandon and clarity. His lines are
clean, lyrical and just superb; they pay homage to the master in
some of their velvety essence, yet are without obvious Evanisms.
This is to his great credit, what with all these tunes recorded
many times by Bill Evans. Yet the spirit of Bill is all over the
place in this record. He swings beautifully, too, never overplaying.
Evans We Will Meet Again is reverently and poignantly
-- and what a profound lyric! Piano and bass weave a nice counterpoint
through the opening of the melancholy melody (which Bill wrote for
his brother Harry, after the latters passing). Teirney may
have made the definitive vocal version of this lovely piece. Surely
any future performance will have to be compared to this one. Its
sincere and heartfelt and bears repeated listenings. The uplifting
ending adds a genuine moment of hopefulness, and a fitting one to
this otherwise sad and wistful tune.
The title tune, now even acknowledged by the Miles Davis Estate
(on their website) to be written by Evans, may well be the high
point of the album. It opens with a bass line (reminiscent of Vince
Guaraldis Cast Your Fate to The Wind) and the
intervals remain as a pedal point through much of the head. It casts
a mesmerizing and hypnotic musical tension and nuance, as Tierneys
gorgeous vocal tone provides the color. A brief, understated piano
piano interlude follows, before the pedal point returns, and the
sustaining melody takes us out. This is one of the most outstanding
arrangements for a vocal performance Ive heard in a long time.
You and the Night and The Music was another surprise.
A very textured, lovely and exotic opening starts with a gorgeous
bass figure, with harmonics, before Tierney states it again with
no piano behind her for the first eight bars. It then swings with
great understatement and another clever piano solo. It returns to
the sublime exotica for the last phrases, leading straight into
Detour Ahead without a break.
One of the very few reservations I had about the album was the choice
of Old Devil Moon for inclusion and as the CDs closer.
Bill never recorded it to my knowledge, and as bubbly as it is in
its brisk Latin feel, Im not sure its fits here, considering
the absolute gems herein. Yet it works on its own terms.
Trey Brinker on bass and Ray Brinker on drums deserve mention as
well. They are tight together and provide great support, and their
presence is always felt. They worked with Mr. Jacobs a while, (in
Jack Sheldons big band out in California) and it shows. They
light up the proceedings in unexpected ways and the interplay is
simply refreshing and never obtrusive. Their musical comraderie
is a treat all by itself
Tierney Sutton has made an outstanding record here of material that,
due to its musical intricacies and its any choices of presentation
could have easily fallen flat. That it shines in such graceful and
clever ways and with such moving lyricism, and this trios
innate musicality behind her sweet voice is a true tribute to all
that Bill Evans music exemplified. VERY highly reommended!