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Tierney Sutton: Unsung Heroes

Last year’s Introducing Tierney Sutton marked the arrival of a rare jazz vocal talent. Few singers are blessed with an instrument as lovely, crystalline and flexible as Sutton’s voice, and ever fewer possess the musicianship to make such intelligent, inspired improvisational choices. Add Sutton’s uncommonly good looks to her abundant gifts and you have a singer destined to become a major jazz attraction.

That said, Unsung Heroes, despite some enthralling moments, is unlikely to be her breakthrough recording. Most of the problem comes from the album’s premise: a collection of compositions by jazz instrumentalists. In the liner notes, Sutton repeats the advice she gives to her jazz vocal students at the University of Southern California: “Of course, singers must deliver the lyrics, but in terms of getting jazz harmonies and jazz feel, you have to get into the meat of the instrumental music.” In much of Unsung Heroes, Sutton focuses so intently on using her voice instrumentally that she shortchanges language, the expressive element that distinguishes singers from other musicians.

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