The Tierney Sutton Band – The Sting Variations

Tierney Sutton Band "The Sting Variations"One good thing about the Grammy nominations is that I usually listen back to a record or two which somehow fell under the radar. This time around, I totally neglected Tierney Sutton‘s last release (nominated as Best Vocal Jazz Album) with the songs from Sting. My favorite Police albums remain the three records the group recorded between 1979 and 1981: “Regatta De Blanc”, “Zenyatta Mondatta”, and “Ghost In The Machine”. From “Regatta De Blanc”, Tierney revisits “Message In A Bottle” in a strangely mixed version with reverb and the vocal pretty far in the back of the room and the instruments far louder than her voice. I was a bit puzzled at first because the arrangement by Trey Henry, one of her bassists (the other being Kevin Axt), is pretty cool. But it is actually the common ground throughout the record.

My two favorite tracks  from that particular album, “Walking On The Moon” and “Bring On The Night”, didn’t pass the test for her record. From “Zenyatta Mondatta”, Tierney chose “Driven To Tears”, the album’s opener, and “Shadows In The Rain”. The former also makes use of the famous Miles Davis bass line and bridge of “So What” and has a bit too much of scat towards the end, which I still can’t cherish. “Shadows In The Rain” is done here in an exquisite ballad style with some superb playing by pianist Christian Jacob. I’d like to add here again that I think the way Tierney’s vocal comes out in the mix is really odd.

There is one track from the original “Ghost In The Machine” album, the biggest hit off that LP “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” (how I wish someone would record “Spirits In The Material World” or “Too Much Information”). The arrangement here is just bass and drum and Tierney’s almost Jarreau-ish voice, including the gimmicks.

“Every Breath You Take” is recorded as a lullaby, with Tierney’s voice sounding as if it is coming out of a cave. At this time I thought something was wrong with my audio equipment or speakers, but no, it’s supposed to be like that I guess. It doesn’t do her voice a favor. I can’t help it. There are fascinating, unique, and very enjoyable arrangements here, like on “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” with gripping percussion and drum work by Ray Brinker or a free-flowing, grooving “Seven Days” with its stop-time moments.

I never liked “Walking In Your Footsteps” and “Synchronicity 1” and haven’t changed my mind since, even though there is another Miles Davis classic interpolated here (“Milestones”). To combine “Fragile” and Luiz Bonfá‘s “The Gentle Rain” is working out extremely well I think. One of the highlights of the set. Tierney and Christian Jacob also opted for a stripped-down and effective “Fields Of Gold”. The beauty remains. With 14 tracks in total, I think she gives a pretty personal and varied overview of Sting’s work, with “Consider Me Gone” as the closing cut of an album that has a strange sense of mixing the vocals which simply escapes me.

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