Tierney Sutton: Fine Jazz Vocalist, or Just Another Dollybird?

Anyone here know anything about Tierney Sutton?

I just listened to her performance of Bobby Troup’s “Route 66” on WBGO, and thought it was awfully good…tight rhythm section behind her, too. It’s the leadoff tune on her new disc Something Cool.

According to her website she’s a graduate of Wesleyan University (Russian major), spent some time at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, and is currently head of the Vocal Jazz dept. at USC. But she and her band seem to be appearing mostly in places like Salt Lake City and Columbus, so it’s not like they’re glomming any top venues.

I got burned last year trying out the new Norah Jones record (somebody thought this was jazz? What the freak is it doing on the Blue Note label?) and I’m a little hesitant to invest in another unknown new chick singer.

All the glamour shots in her web scrapbook make me nervous, too. I’m hoping she’s not yet another of these new female jazz vocalists cruising by on their good looks.

I’d love to hear some opinions from Dopers who may have bought one of her previous albums, or have heard her in concert out there in the sticks.

Yep, Ike, I think Tierney Sutton is the real thing. I also share your (apparent) reservations re: Norah Jones. Nice voice, but she isn’t that jazzy to me and often sounds like a young Billie Holliday wannabe.

My current faves in the (currently living) Female Vocalist Pantheon are: Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, and Patricia Barber. Reeves and Barber are something else. Among the newbies, I’d have to give a nod to Jane Monheit, whose voice is lovely, though a bit unseasoned. I run hot and cold re: Diane Krall. The constant barrage of glamour shots is a bit much.

In short, Norah next to Reeves, Wilson, or Barber is a sad joke.

What are your thoughts re: the late Suzanne McCorkle? Who else (among living females) are you listening to these days?

Wow, thank you for answering. I have GOT to work on making my thread titles more tantalizing. Should have gone for Gorgeous Blondie Singer in Tight Spangly Pants.

Living females? Heh…I refer to my classical and jazz collections as “the Dead White Guys” and “the Dead Black Guys.” Currently listening to Dead White Gal Lee Wiley’s Night in Manhattan, possibly the greatest vocal set ever.

I’ve got Patricia Barber’s Modern Cool, but it’s dropped well out of rotation; I’ve just dug it out to give it another listen. The presence of Dave Douglas on trumpet helps it out for me.

Also have a live set of Kurt Elling (male singer, but whut th’ hell) at the Green Mill in Chicago, but it’s never done much for me, either.

Cassandra Wilson and Jane Monheit have had nearly as much publicity as Norah Jones over the past couple of years, so I’m a little leery of them, too. Monheit mainly because she’s another pippin…Wilson gets more serious attention, but I heard a couple cuts off her most recent album on the radio, and I wasn’t entraced by her take on “The Weight.”

Suzanne McCorkle, I don’t know of. Do you recommend her?

I hear she made quite a hit on Broadway last year . . .

Oooopsie, yeah. I knew I’d heard of her somewheres

A remarkably boorish remark about a woman who suffered a heartbreaking life, ultimately committed suicide, and never harmed so much as a hair on your head.

Anyone care to elaborate on the broadway crack and why it was in such poor taste?

As for Tierney Sutton, I can’t comment on her music as I’ve never heard it. I do, however, agree that Norah Jones’ bland album was hugely over-rated. On the other hand, I think Monheit definitely has the talent and vocal chops but she still has to mature as an artist. Sometimes I get the feeling she’s trying too hard to sound like Ella Fitzgerald.

As for Cassandra Wilson, I think she is one of the finest female vocalists of the past decade. Unfortunately, her most recent album, Belly of the Sun, is not among her best. Her distinctive interpretations and choice of cover material always make her an interesting listen (Waters of March or Bob Dylan’s Shelter from the Storm), but she occasionally missteps and her original compositions are somewhat lacking. The lyrics to Justice are pretty hard to take seriously, “Give me a box of reparations, no, not the little one, I want the big one that matches my scars”…Uh-huh.

Far better is her cover of Strange Fruit from the album New Moon Daughter. The sparse, jarring bass and guitar arrangements along with her ghostly delivery lend the song an appropriate sense of foreboding and doom. Another excellent album is Blue Light Til Dawn. There’s a strong current of blues and country running through these albums (some covers of Robert Johnson and Son House tunes) but Wilson’s arrangements, phrasing and musicianship are far more sophisticated than Norah Jones’ pop-folk-blues. Check out Blue Skies to hear Wilson take a more traditional approach to a selection of jazz standards (I especially like her version of Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You?). She sounds a lot like Betty Carter on that album.

Now for an oddball recommendation. I don’t know how you feel about Terrence Blanchard, Uke, but he recently recorded an album of Jimmy McHugh standards, Let’s Get Lost, that features almost all of the aforementioned singers: Diana Krall, Jane Monheit, Dianne Reeves, and Cassandra Wilson. Each of the women sing two songs except Krall who only gets one. The whole thing feels like kind of a patchwork due to stylistic variations but it could work as a sampler in a novelty sort of way.

*Originally posted by Hodge *
As for Tierney Sutton, I can’t comment on her music as I’ve never heard it. I do, however, agree that Norah Jones’ bland album was hugely over-rated. On the other hand, I think Monheit definitely has the talent and vocal chops but she still has to mature as an artist. Sometimes I get the feeling she’s trying too hard to sound like Ella Fitzgerald.

I agree, though she sounds nothing like Ella, nor do I think she aspires to be. She’s definitely got the chops, but she isn’t jazzy in the same sense as, say, Dianne Reeves, who I think is the preeminent female jazz vocalist of our time. Speaking of Monheit, it was she who competed against the late Teri Thornton (and placed second to same) at the 1998 Thelonius Monk International Vocals contest. Thornton was one hell of a singer. I think this touches on what Ukelele Ike said: “branding” potential is perhaps more important than talent today. Notice how almost all the young jazz divas are telegenic knockouts: Reeves, Monheit, Sutton, Krall, Barber, etc.

BTW, I just returned from London, where I asked a bloke at the record store what HE thought of Tierney Sutton. His response: “Who?”

I then mentioned Monheit. Ditto.

I finally asked him who he was listening to: Ian Shaw. Hell, I’ve seen Shaw in concert. Talented, yes, but still … I think Shaw used to sing with a punk band.

Suzannah McCorkle, a classy lady and one hell of a jazz singer…

"Susannah McCorkle was undoubtedly wired for depression. Her father suffered from bipolar disorder and was a suicide, as was her mother’s sister. McCorkle’s older sister is schizophrenic. When Susannah was a student at Berkeley, her father was hospitalized following a mental breakdown; she told a therapist she felt obligated to drop out of school and get a job to support her family. The therapist replied that her financial help was not going to save anyone. “You’re living in a burning building,” she later recalled him saying. "Get out

In the early-morning hours of May 19, 2001, McCorkle sent off a series of e-mails to friends. She fed her two cats, and at about 3 a.m. placed a one-page handwritten note in an envelope and addressed it to Thea Lurie. In her pocket, she slipped her business card; on the back, she had written Lurie’s name and telephone number, as well as DiNicola’s. Then she hurled herself out the window.

“. . . Please believe that I do this because I am convinced that my illness cannot be helped for any length of time and I cannot bear to be a burden on anyone any longer,” her letter to Lurie read in part. "Please convey my love to everyone I leave behind. I just can’t keep fighting myself and my own biochemistry any longer . . . "

Few of her friends knew that McCorkle’s parents belonged to the Hemlock Society and that she grew up believing it was acceptable to take one’s own life. Few people knew that after a stroke and a diagnosis of inoperable cancer in 1994, her father had killed himself with pills and a plastic bag, and that her mother’s sister had also taken her own life a year later. Once, Susannah confided to Thea Lurie that the only reason she hadn’t killed herself yet was because of the devastation it would cause her best friend. There are people who think about suicide and people who don’t," Lurie says. “Susannah was someone who thought about suicide. She was someone for whom it was not a foreign idea.”