Nicky Schrire: Your recent albums have been made with your long-term working band TSB, the Tierney Sutton Band. This album is with different people. What brought about the shift in personnel, and what have you discovered in the process of making the change?
Tierney Sutton. Doing this album with new personnel happened very organically. The TSB members were busy with other things and at the same time Peter Erskine reached out to me and said he was interested in being a part of the project—and suggested Larry Goldings on B-3—and I knew I wanted him on acoustic piano too. Also at the same time, Al Jarreau reached out about doing something with me—and I jumped at the chance to bring him on board. The whole idea began with my collaboration with the Turtle Island String Qt so that seemed completely natural. I learned so much by having new collaborators. There are muscles that you don’t use as much when you perform with the same musicians for as long as I have (OVER 20 YEARS!) so at first it was, frankly, terrifying! My band is really extraordinarily great—but it was time for me to see what it felt like to conceive of the project myself and see it through. I’m delighted with the results and with the new musical relationships I formed.
NS. Your output is beautifully consistent-both in creativity and your timeline. In fact, your Joni Mitchell album won’t be your most recent release by the time you arrive in London. It seems you’re celebrating the best of both worlds by collaborating with TSB bassist Kevin Axt and French guitarist Serge Merlaud on your new recording “Paris Sessions” (due 16 September on BFM Jazz). Serge and Kevin will be performing with you at Ronnie’s-will we hear repertoire from the new album as well as Joni gems? And did this recording come about quite organically and spontaneously in that it follows closely on the heels of “After Blue”?
TS. “Paris Sessions” was actually recorded BEFORE “After Blue” and 2 tracks on the CD are included on “After Blue”: “Don’t Go To Strangers” and “Answer me My Love”. I knew that, as part of the Joni project, I wanted to pay tribute to Joni’s jazz singing. These two songs (and one other that is on Paris Sessions but not on After Blue, Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me are great standards Joni recorded.) Kevin and I both fell in love with Serge’s playing—Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell classic jazz, and we wanted to record with him. So we came to Paris to record and knew that a few of the tracks would be included in joni project that was already in the planning stages and underway.
NS: Joni is loved by so many singers and there are tribute albums a plenty reiterating her magic as a writer and songstress. Did you have any trepidations in paying tribute to Joni with your own album?
TS: I have to say I had 30 years’ worth of trepidations, that’s how long people were suggesting Joni’s material to me and it took all that time to finally decide I loved the music and felt I had something to say with it. But I have to say that all projects are fine if you fall in love with the music, which I did. Once that happens, you aren’t afraid of criticism—you know you are coming from sincerity and that’s all you can do—the rest is out of your hands.
Nicky Schrire: I love hearing you in these new configurations even though I love TSB and the sound you’ve carved out as a unit. You were also a guest with the Turtle Island Quartet, touring their program “Poets and Prayers” in 2013. Will we see the return of TSB in the near future or are you gearing up for other collaborations before reuniting?
Tierey Sutton: The TSB is talking about what we will do next and several ideas are floating around. We definitely aren’t done… and still have done some gigs together recently. In addition to that, I will be continuing to tour and work with Kevin and Serge—We are already talking about some follow-up to “Paris Sessions” that would be a swing and or latin album, AT the end of January I will be on the Jazz Cruise in the US with guitarist Larry Koonse and Flute legend Hubert Laws –we’ve been working in trio for the last several years. In addition, Mark Summer (cellist from Turtle Island Qt) and I are collaborating on a holiday program Season of Peace possibly with Christian Jacob on piano, I’ve been asked to sing with the WDR orchestra with Belgian pianist Ivan Paduart in 2015 and am also talking to violinist Mads Tolling about a collaboration. I am really happy to have many different projects going at once. It feels right and natural. And I am so blessed that they are all with such great players and people…I’d be glad to have more!
Tierney Sutton plays at Ronnie Scotts on Monday 22 September and Tuesday 23 September, shows at 8:30pm (doors open at 6pm)