By Tom Alvarez, Indianapolis Performing Arts Examiner
March 25, 2014
Five-time Grammy Award winner, jazz singer Tierney Sutton, said that fans, for years, suggested that she create an album dedicated to the music of esteemed pop vocalist and composer Joni Mitchell. In 2013 she finally did release a CD entitled “After Blue: Tierney Sutton,” called a “reimagining of the legacy of Joni Mitchell.” On Wednesday during her one-night only appearance at the Cabaret at the Columbia Club, Sutton performed music from that record in “After Blue: The Joni Mitchell Project.”
Sutton who is known for using her translucent voice like an instrument, is described as a “singer’s singer.” In her Cabaret debut, she demonstrated that she also deserves the other moniker she has been given — “a musician’s singer” — as she performed with cellist extraordinaire Mark Summer, a member of the two time Grammy Award winning Turtle Island Quartet and Parisian jazz and classical guitarist Serge Merlaud.
Joni Mitchell’s poetic songs about love and loss combined with Sutton’s delicate, ethereal-sounding voice made for a vivid combination. Drawing the audience in with her quiet subtlety, Sutton deeply connected with them as they listened to her in enthralled silence. Projecting an image of easy going affability throughout an informal set peppered with commentary about Mitchell, the “After Blue” CD and anecdotes about her own career, she came across as very approachable.
Songs from Mitchell’s songbook interpreted by Sutton included “Blue,” a lively duet with Summer of “All I Want,” “Court and Spark,” “The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines,” an evocative duet of the jazz standard “Don’t Go to Strangers,” with Merlaud, and a morph of “April in Paris” with “Free Man in Paris.”
While singing the iconic counter-culture anthem “Woodstock,” and “Both Sides Now,” Sutton was less about imitating Mitchell and more about paying homage through her own distinctive vocal artistry and rare musical sensibilities.
One of the most stirring moments of Sutton’s concert took place during her heart wrenching rendition of “Little Green,” a song about the baby daughter Mitchell gave up for adoption in 1965 when she was an impoverished Toronto folk singer.
Cellist Summer, who, according to Sutton during introductory remarks, has been called the Bobby McFerrin of cellists,” was definitely an added attraction, coaxing sounds from his instrument, using slap bass and left hand pizzicato techniques that were a marvel to behold, especially during his solo of “Julie-O.”
Sutton closed with an encore performance of the swinging bossa nova flavored “No More Blues,” ending an evening of unsurpassed entertainment by yet one more in a long string of the world’s brightest talents presented by the Cabaret at the Columbia Club which if, if it isn’t already, will soon be on somebody’s national top ten list for cabaret venues.
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