The Russian language and culture are complex, mysterious, and beautiful in their own way, but for vocalist Tierney Sutton, Russian was no match for the magical powers of jazz. While a Russian major at Wesleyan University in the Eighties, Sutton heard the music of sublime chanteuse Sarah Vaughan, among other legends, and was never the same. She had always sung but never considered it a serious line of work. Soon the glamorous Sutton, who resembles a blond version of Sarah Fergie Ferguson, enrolled at the Berklee College of Music. Shortly thereafter she embarked on a career that has yielded five albums. The latest, Dancing in the Dark, is devoted to tunes by Frank Sinatra and features Sutton skillfully wrapping her velvety voice around well-known songs such as Only the Lonely and lesser-known pieces such as the Johnny Mandel/Johnny Mercer tune Emily.
Developing an affinity for Sinatra was a surprise to Sutton, who as a teenager was never charmed by the singer and well aware of his alleged dark side. There was a sense in my growing up that being a Frank Sinatra fan had a flavor of misogyny, she recalls, on the phone from her home in Los Angeles. You know, a Rat Pack male machismo kind of thing, which didnt interest me much. But a little more than ten years ago she heard the heartfelt ballad records that Sinatra recorded in the late 1950s with arrangers Gordon Jenkins and Nelson Riddle. That was it, she says. My mind was blown and I just listened to them all the time. Thats the best ballad singing that anyones ever done.
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Currently a self-described Sinatra fanatic, Sutton never did get to stare into Ol Blue Eyes eyes face to face, which seems unfortunate but is fine with her. Im perfectly happy to know him through his music, she says. I think human beings are so flawed, and I can enjoy the perfection of his ballad singing, which I think is supreme.