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Tierney Sutton on Piano Jazz

Tierney Sutton.
Tierney Sutton.

Singer Tierney Sutton grew up in Milwaukee. Though she sang throughout her childhood in local choirs and musicals, she didn't discover jazz until she was 20. As she studied Russian language and literature at Wesleyan University, Sutton began to devour the records of Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Bill Evans.

After finishing her Russian degree, Sutton moved to Boston, briefly attending the Berklee College of Music for a few semesters before setting out on her own to perform full time. She soon landed several high-profile performances with artists such as Max Roach and Billy Taylor, and she was invited to festival performances in the U.S. and Europe. Just five years after her first professional gig, Boston area critics were comparing her to Ella Fitzgerald.

In 1994, Sutton moved to Los Angeles — the jazz scene there seemed young and vibrant to her and she felt that she might also find some studio work to supplement her jazz career. In 1998, Sutton entered the Thelonious Monk Jazz Vocal Competition and was named as a semi-finalist. A year later, she released her first album, Introducing Tierney Sutton. It was nominated for an Indie Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album.

Sutton was quickly signed to the Telarc jazz label and released three new albums over the next three years, including Unsung Heroes, which featured vocal versions of tunes recognized more as instrumentals; Blue in Green, a tribute to Bill Evans; and Something Cool, which showed off Sutton's range and creativity on tunes from "Route 66" to "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead."

Her 2004 album, Dancing in the Dark, a tribute to Frank Sinatra, debuted in the Billboard Top 10 and stayed on the charts for 15 weeks. Sutton's 2005 release, the Grammy nominated I'm with the Band was a live recording from Birdland with her group of more than 10 years.

Originally recorded March 9, 2004. Originally broadcast Nov. 23, 2004.

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