Tierney Sutton Band: ScreenPlay (BFM Jazz)

A review of the vocalist-led group's album of Hollywood covers

Tierney Sutton Band, ScreenPlay
The cover of ScreenPlay by the Tierney Sutton Band

Los Angeles jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton doesn’t deliver every recording wrapped in a conceptual bow, but her discography is studded with well-executed thematic projects, including albums focusing on songs associated with Bill Evans, Frank Sinatra, Sting, and American folk music. Even releases with no overt concept are animated by the capacious interpretive skills of her working band, an estimable unit featuring pianist Christian Jacob, bassists Kevin Axt and Trey Henry, and drummer/percussionist Ray Brinker. Whatever body of material she interprets, the underlying subject is the creative communion they’ve nurtured.

Given their experience crafting soundtracks for the highly regarded 2004 indie feature Blue in Green and Clint Eastwood’s 2016 film Sully, it’s not surprising that Tierney & Co. have turned their attention to Hollywood on ScreenPlay. But rather than concentrating on old standards, they focus on songs from more recent decades, with plenty of left-field choices that feel like a dare. She drains the saccharine from “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and adds real sass to “You’re the One That I Want,” both from Grease.

Sutton is at her best in the treacherous emotional currents articulated by Michel Legrand and Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and her interpretations of their best-known collaborations are authoritative, including a particularly lovely duet with Alan Bergman on “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” She’s equally effective on Dave Grusin’s collaboration with the Bergmans, “It Might Be You” from Tootsie, while her canny medley of “Moon River” and “Calling You” connect the themes with of a web of longing. “The Sound of Silence” is the album’s misfire, as Paul Simon’s self-consciously poetic lyrics don’t surrender to a jazz feel. She closes the album with “Arrow” from Sully, a lovely, compact piece that strongly suggests the Sutton Band is due for an album of originals.

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Andrew Gilbert

Andrew Gilbert is a Berkeley-based freelancer who has written about arts and culture since 1989 for numerous publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, East Bay Express, Berkeleyside, and KQED’s California Report. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he experienced a series of mind-blowing epiphanies listening to jazz masters at Kuumbwa Jazz Center in the late 1980s, performances he remembers more vividly than the gigs he saw last month.