Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tunes: Tierney Totals Tuesday (Fatly)!

Last night was Mardi Gras, aka Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Bernardo took the train up from Portland and we had dinner with Joe & Sharon at their house. Afterwards, as part of the celebration, we went to Dimitriou's Jazz Alley to listen to the Tierney Sutton Band.

The TS band has been together for 17 years and it certainly shows. Piano, bass, drums and vocals all blended seamlessly together into one lush whole. Tierney is certainly the star here. She is a fabulous vocal talent and has a style that is absolutely her own; a high, clear, breathy mixture of scat singing, unique phrasing and absolute technical brilliance. She has such a reverence for the work of songwriters and lyricists that comes through in her between-song comments. She knows the details of their lives and how that influenced their art as it also informs and influences hers.

She is one of the top-tier female jazz vocalists, not just currently, but all-time. Yet, she is smart enough to let her band mates shine in solo spots that are as long as they want. Her drummer, Ray Brinker, is fascinating to watch. He is the quietest, most intense drummer I have seen in a long time. Much of his work is done with brushes; his touch is unerring and the beats he lays down combine with the bass to lay a solid foundation for Tierney to soar over the top. In many jazz groups the players look at one another for the subtle cues about where the song is going next, who's soloing next, etc. These guys have been together so long that the eyes are no longer necessary; they just listen. Ray kept his head turned away from his band mates for most of the night, not because he was ignoring them, too-cool-for-school style, but because he was pointing his ear at them so he could hear better.

Trey Henry, the bass player (Tierney said of him last night, "He's funkier than you are." - no brag, just fact), had the most animated face. It was really cool to watch him as he laid down the beat. He and Ray combined to lead off a version of Fever that was absolutely smoking. I do not think I have heard a hotter version than that anywhere, anytime.

Christian Jacob, the pianist, is an accompanist of amazing skill, but also a soloist of great virtuousity. It was cool to watch he and Tierney trade licks back and forth. In fact, it was a great pleasue to watch her interact with all of them, together and separately throughout the night. You might be thinking, "The drummer? Really?" The answer is yes. Tierney does a version of Surrey with the Fringe on the Top that is fired off by, led, and accompanied only by Ray Brinker, the drummer. He sets a blazing pace and she manages to keep up. She recorded it on the band's 2005 I'm With The Band and, at the time, I thought, " Well, yeah that's stunning, but I wonder how many takes it took." The answer, boys and girls, is, probably one. She was certainly able to repeat the performance live last night. Truly amazing.

I'm so glad Bernardo suggested going to Jazz Alley for our Fat Tuesday celebration. It was a great treat.

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I'm currently 60 years old. I currently work as the learning management system specialist for American University of Madaba in Madaba, Jordan. I was originally certified as a high-school English teacher and taught school for 13 years (1 year of substituting, 1 year of 7th grade, 2 years of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade, 9 years of 8th grade). I've worked for hardware and software companies for the past 23 years doing training, training materials development, certification test development and other education related stuff. My wife and I have raised four children to adulthood; some of them live at home at the moment, but that won't last (they're too independent for that). We live at home with 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 black cats, a crazy cat, and, during the winter, 70,000 coho salmon.