Bahai News -- Charlston Post & Courier - Tierney Sutton, band to kick off jazz series with 'Something Cool'

Tierney Sutton, band to kick off jazz series with 'Something Cool'

By: BY JACK MCCRAY    Of The Post and Courier Staff
Originally Published on: 05/24/02
Page: 3

     In late February, Dr. Al Fraser was driving back to Charleston from Hilton Head after a slammin' Count Basie Band concert at the Westin Hotel.
     It was around midnight.
     The drive across the island and up through the ACE Basin brought on conversation about the enduring charm of the Lowcountry. Talk moved to the relationship between the essence of jazz music and nature. The moss and marsh around here seem to mesh into spiritual song. The rhythms, melodies and harmonies of the Gullah coast had a lot to do with the beginnings of this American art form.
     Then, Fraser started waxing philosophic about a son of the Pee Dee, the late Dizzy Gillespie, and his take on coastal South Carolina. Gillespie, a seminal American artist and co-inventor of the bebop style, worked, taught and played here many times, learning as well as entertaining. He used this area and its history as a big part of his connection to Africa, his cultural source.
     Typically, the Dizzy Gillespie stories led to laughter. He was childlike, very funny. One story Fraser really enjoyed telling was about a trumpet player in New York City who Gillespie dubbed "Notes."
     "He would play all this stuff and just go on and on, but not really ever saying anything. So Diz started calling him Notes," Fraser said.
     A lot of jazz players, especially unseasoned ones, play too many notes. Bebop players can be particularly guilty of this stylistic sin, given the potentially frenetic nature of that style of jazz.
     Singer Tierney Sutton is as much of a bopper as anyone else, but after only a relatively short time in the craft, she's developed a style that's spare and tasty. She's a huge fan of Gillespie's and, she says, has been inspired by him all her musical life. "I only met him once in my life," Sutton said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. "But we have so many mutual friends."
     Sutton, also a student of history, is a follower of the Bahai faith, as was Gillespie. "The bass player and pianist in my band played for (Brazilian singer) Flora Purim, who became a Bahai through Dizzy."
     Bassist Trey Henry and pianist Christian Jacob will join drummer Ray Brinker and Sutton tonight on Kiawah Island and Saturday at the College of Charleston's Cistern to kick off this year's edition of the Spoleto Festival USA's Wachovia Jazz Series.
     Sutton said the ensemble will play from a finished recording set for release this fall entitled "Something Cool." Her current release on Telarc, "Blue in Green," is a big hit, and is a showcase for her love of the late pianist, Bill Evans, whose modal, angular melodies and style of playing are legendary in jazz.
     She's a strong soloist, but the group sees itself as an ensemble.
     "The band is very much a band. I'm influenced by some of the modern sounds of the guys in the band. So we do a certain amount of just lay-it-down-and-swing, but then we do some grooves that are different - taking standards and doing something a little different with them."
     Also like Gillespie, Sutton is an educator. She did a workshop at the Charleston County School of the Arts for choral students Thursday, some of whom sing in the school's vocal jazz ensemble, Harmony. She has strong feelings about education and believes it's the answer to a lot of problems in this country.
     Wachovia Jazz Series Producer Michael Grofsorean said, "Tierney Sutton reminds me in very broad terms of Karrin Allyson." She is most often compared to Ella Fitzgerald.
     Grofsorean finalizes plans for his series generally the fall before the festival begins.
     "I went to hear Ray Brown - a great bass player, publisher, and once married to Ella (Fitzgerald) - in Ann Arbor (Mich.), and after the show I went to say hello," he said. "I introduced myself, then I asked him who I should be listening to. He said 'Tierney Sutton.' I thanked him and then asked who else. He just looked at me for a while, and said, 'Tierney Sutton.'"
     Sutton said she worked Piccolo Spoleto in the early 1990s, making her familiar with the festival. Her roots in this region are deeper, though. "I have connections to the Southland. My mother is from Durham (N.C.)," she said. "About 10 years ago I did a gig in Hilton Head, and loved the area and made many friends there."
     Sutton and her band are just back from a 14-city European tour.
     She will meet fans in the classical music room at Millennium Music Center in downtown Charleston at 1 p.m. Saturday where she'll sign CDs and perhaps sing a song or two.

©Copyright 2002, Charlston Post & Courier (SC, USA)

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