The Tierney Sutton Band: American Road

Christopher Loudon reviews 'American Road' by the Tierney Suton Band

The most egalitarian of jazz units, the members of the Tierney Sutton Band-Sutton on vocals, Christian Jacob at the piano, dual bassists Kevin Axt and Trey Henry and drummer/percussionist Ray Brinker-have spent 16 years living in and out of one another’s musical pockets. They know, and appreciate, their fellow players as thoroughly and intimately as family.

Now, for its ninth album, the band moves beyond investigation of the Great American Songbook to exploration of, simply, America. Though specific locales are occasionally cited, notably “Oh Shenandoah” and “On Broadway,” their expedition is less physical than spiritual, celebrating such unifying American tenets as bravery, tenacity, limitlessness and, above all, freedom and equality. They are the wayfaring strangers of the opening track, never judging but keenly observing.

To understand how fundamentally interdependent the band is, listen to the cohesiveness of voice and bass throughout “Amazing Grace,” or how Sutton’s multifarious voyage through “It Ain’t Necessarily So” is shape-shifted by Brinker and Jacob, or how the dream-like wishfulness of “Somewhere” is built by slowly interlocking piano and drums then bass while Sutton weaves angel-like amongst. It is musical holism at its purest and most profound. Sutton and Jacob must, however, be permitted a separate shout-out for their album-concluding “America the Beautiful,” the oxymoronic simplicity of its grandeur surely unmatchable.