Oct 1, 2013
The music of Joni Mitchell has intrigued jazz artists for years, reaching a creative and critical peak in 2007 with the release of Herbie Hancock’s River – The Joni Letters. That CD earned a Grammy for Album of the Year, an extremely rare feat for a jazz release. Singer Tierney Sutton had been studying the Joni songbook well before the Hancock CD. The singer had recorded album-length tributes to Frank Sinatra (Dancing in the Dark) and Bill Evans (Blue in Green), rarely recording music beyond the Great American Songbook or mainstream jazz.
That changes with the release of After Blue, an album of reimagined songs written by Joni Mitchell. The first CD Ms. Sutton has recorded without her steady band, After Blue does what great interpretive jazz so often does – takes the familiar and revises, repackages and rearranges it in surprisingly creative and different ways to give us something wonderfully new. Ms. Sutton has bravely tackled Baby Boomer classics like “Woodstock” and “Both Sides Now”, and with the aid of collaborators like the Turtle Island String Quartet, Al Jarreau and especially Larry Goldings, given us a CD we’ll be listening to and marveling at for some time to come.
I spoke with Tierney the day before After Blue was set to drop, and Podcast 381 is our conversation, as she shares her thought process in digging into the Joni Mitchell catalogue, what songs she thought of doing but did not, and how she plans to take the record on the road with the Tierney Sutton Band. Musical selections from After Blue include:
Tierney Sutton – “Both Sides Now” from After Blue. Starting with Tierney’s wordless vocals, the folk-rock classic is given an ethereal treatment.
Tierney Sutton – “Dry Cleaner from Des Moines” from After Blue. Peter Erskine (drums), Goldings (piano) and Hubert Laws (flute) lay it down, allowing Tierney take one of Joni’s collaborations with Charles Mingus to another level.
Tierney Sutton – “Big Yellow Taxi” from After Blue. Stripped down to basically a duet with drummer Ralph Humphrey, this is interpretive jazz at its best.
Tierney Sutton – “Blue” from After Blue. A wonderful arrangement courtesy of David Balakrishnan of the Turtle Island String Quartet gives even greater depth to a heart-felt love song, the title track from Joni Mitchell’s most critically acclaimed album.