Tierney Sutton: It's Only a Paper Moon


It's Only a Paper Moon


Tierney Sutton (vocals)


Desire (Telarc 83865)

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Tierney Sutton (vocals),

Christian Jacob (piano), Trey Henry (bass), Ray Brinker (drums)


Composed by Harold Arlen, E. Y. Harburg & Billy Rose


Recorded: Burbank, September 3-5, 2008


Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

Jazz singers are supposed to put their own stamp on the old songs, but too often these days the song controls the singer. The task of interpreting a standard such as "My Funny Valentine" or "Body and Soul" is approached by many new-millennium vocalists as an act of veneration, one more tribute in a jazz scene that is dominated by tributes.

In this context, Tierney Sutton's achievement here is all the more impressive. "It's Only a Paper Moon," a hit for Paul Whiteman back in 1933, is hard to modernize, with its nursery rhyme melody anchored by chord tones, its old-fashioned two-beat feel and Prohibition-era harmonic movement. Sutton doesn't just update it, she completely re-creates the song from the ground up, with admirable help from her band, yet she maintains absolute fidelity to the emotional temperature of the lyrics. The arrangement is smartly crafted—you know something special is happening from the outset, with the interplay between the crickets-in-the-meadow drum part and the floating piano lines. But Sutton is the star, and impresses with her spot-on intonation and honeyed delivery. She takes the performance through several distinct moods, each one well conceived and artfully executed.

This is a standout track on a CD that will certainly rank among 2009's finest jazz vocal releases. No cardboard seas here; this is the real thing.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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