Solidly innovative and a forward-thinker in jazz vocals arena over the past 15 years, Tierney Sutton has constantly looked backwards while forging a future path that has influenced the likes of Laurie Antonioli and Gretchen Parlato, among many other noted contemporary jazz vocalists. A master of vocal pyrotechnics like Sarah Vaughan, Sutton sings on a high-wire, taking stylistic chances that, more often than not, pay off handsomely. Sutton and her band have been perfecting their unique updating of the great American songbook on such well-received recordings as Desire (Telarc, 2009), On The Other Side (Telarc, 2007) and I'm With The Band (Telarc, 2005). And she provides a tour-de-force in American Road.
An important part of the band's unique sound derives from divining the organic earthiness from the standards it selects to perform. Where Cassandra Wilson spent the better part of the 1990s stripping down standards and redressing them with more rustic instrumentation such as acoustic slide guitars, mandolins, violins and other artifacts of rural blues, effecting a more seminal, fecund sound, Sutton accomplishes the same with carefully conceived arrangements, created by the entire band as opposed to a single person. Additionally, she does this with her traditional jazz piano trio of 18 years. These arrangements are spare and wide open. Often jarring and dissonant, the clever settings reveal the pieces as dramatically different from traditional performances, revealing their anxious and unsettling elements.