Beautifully Said Magazine: Just before Christmas I had a phone interview with Trisha and Asha (“The Twins of Media”) to discuss Frontier Jazz.
“Jacqui Sutton is a woman who follows her own heart…that is the heart of what she has always loved to hear…jazz and bluegrass music. You’re probably thinking what! Exactly our thoughts until we listened to the infectious sound she has dubbed Frontier Jazz. The wonderful thing about this artist is that she created a sound based upon her own likings and cultivated a genre that was unheard of. Who knew that musical influences of both Billie Holiday and Dolly Parton could produce music that would bridge jazz lovers to bluegrass roots and vice versa. As a vocalist and bandleader, Jacqui is sending a message to anyone wanting to take their personal “likes” and create an environment that allows you to showcase exactly what that may be. Find out at what age she finally came into her own musically and what makes her band so unique.
I basically created a genre called frontier jazz which is a blend of jazz and bluegrass and a bunch of other cultural musical influences. – Jacqui Sutton on defining the genre she created called frontier jazz.
Trisha LaNae’: Please give us the name and history of your current album, currently #1 on the CMJ Jazz Ad Chart.
Jacqui Sutton: The sound album is called Notes from the Frontier and the sub-title is a musical journey. The reason why I call it Notes from the Frontier is because it is a follow-up to my debut CD which came out two years ago. I basically created a genre called frontier jazz which is a blend of jazz and bluegrass and a bunch of other cultural musical influences. “I started hearing what I really felt was frontier jazz. It is as if you are traveling across the country into the American frontier!”
This CD kind of doubles down on the sound which took a couple years to create based on me hearing a lot of things that I liked and working alongside guys (band members) who were adventurous in playing blue grass
Trisha LaNae’: Sounds wonderful and we love jazz!
I want to talk to you next about following your dreams at any age, something that really got my attention. Why do you feel it is so important for people to know that you can follow your dreams at any age?
Jacqui Sutton: That’s a really good question and I thought it would be easier to answer than it turns out to be
I recently turned 53 and have been an artist since in my early twenties, I knew that I had these artistic leanings but there was always the practical issue of the day gig and paying your bills and not being irresponsible. I’ve had this really long trajectory of getting here but it never stopped.
I don’t know if you ever watched Jerry Seinfeld back in the day but there’s one episode that always stuck out in my mind and it’s where Jerry, he’s a standup comic and he is making his living day to day doing just that and he goes to his mother and is complaining about some gig. His mother without even blinking an eye says, “Well you know there is that management training program at Macy’s”…that was pretty much saying just ditch your dreams
Luckily I never had anybody in my life telling me to ditch my dream. Out of my family and friends no one ever said, Jacqui give this up! I was an actor for twenty years, I did classical shakes sphere, experimental musical theater, and I always sang. Nobody told me when I turned forty, “Girl you need to hang this up!”
So here I am at 53 and I recorded my first CD at 50. My message is to surround yourself with people who are not going to tell you to apply for that Macy’s job
Trisha LaNae’: That is an amazing story Jacqui and thank you so much for sharing that because a lot of people need to hear that. Hopefully you can make a song out of that as well.
Jacqui Sutton: Well you know I have a CD in the works that’s all original music and then a CD after that…I’m a long-term planner. The CD in the works is going to be called Middle-aged Broad
Asha LaShae’ & Trisha LaNae’: Love it!
Jacqui Sutton: Yes, It is totally about getting to middle-age and duking it out and making it! I have a bunch of songs I have been working on for that so this will definitely factor in for sure!
Asha LaShae’: I want to go back to your music and say that I love that you recorded your first album at 50 and at 53 you have your current CD which is absolutely fantastic! Now you are in a band of all male musicians so tell us why and what is that experience like?
Jacqui Sutton: So the “why” is that, I am a vocalist first and a musician very last. I am studying piano and I’ve plunked around with instruments here and there. I know that I need the support of musicians and it was when I moved to Houston that I actually found the musicians. I have actually been toying around with this idea for years…at least five years about blending jazz and bluegrass because I use to listen to both. I love bluegrass! I love Dolly Parton, Del McCoury, Bill Monroe as well as Elle Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday. That’s just how my ears and heart respond!
I couldn’t play any instruments and I didn’t have time at 50 to get proficient When I moved to Houston and with some connections through my husband, I met some folks who introduced me to my pianist who arranged most of the songs on my first CD and that arranger introduced me to a lot of other jazz musicians in Houston. All my musicians are jazz with the exception of my cellist who is classical. I also worked with the Houston Ballet. “It just turns out they are all guys!” I told them what my project was and they didn’t run away, they got it! They were adventurous about it and they really liked it. The work that I do requires a lot of rehearsal. I love all the guys! It’s a wide generational range with the youngest being in his 30’s and the seasoned musician in his 60’s.
Asha LaShae’: What is the reception of your audience who see you singing jazz with elements of Billie Holiday and Dolly Parton or the frontier jazz sound you have created?
Jacqui Sutton: People love it!
In the jazz world (traditionally) there is this source of tension between jazz vocalist who are usually women and the musicians. The musicians hammer out theory and they’ve been playing scales, motif and modalities, they stay long and they play gig after gig. The vocalist however, it’s on your body, you express it, and sing it and that’s it. – Jacqui explaining the musical dynamics of jazz vocalist and musicians
I try to create a collaborative environment in the creative process so I involve my band members a lot. Initially, there was some reserve with the frontier jazz concept but once they saw the thing take legs…let’s just it is now three years later that we have been working together. Every interaction is very professional as I have a very high bar for aesthetics and professionalism. My band and I rehearse everything extensively.
By the sounds of Jacqui Sutton’s music it is evident that she is both talented and professional with her gift of delivering innovative music.
We enjoyed speaking with Jacqui Sutton and the valuable lesson she spoke through her interview and that is that no matter what age you are…follow your passion because it will lead you somewhere. How liberating is it to create a genre of music basic on your personal musical taste and have the courage to craft it together for people to hear for the first time. We think its genius and applaud Ms. Sutton on the ability to teach others to be fearless in what they know is in their hearts no matter the reaction from naysayers.
At the time this interview took place, it was an emotional one for Jacqui Sutton as she was supporting a dear friend (graphic designer) whose son was one of the victims of the Newtown, Conn., school shootings. Our hearts were with Jacqui Sutton as she flew to be there for her friend and attend the funeral of their son. Senseless killings like what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary are beyond understanding. We continue to pray for the families even now and thus, dedicate this article to the memory of Benjamin Andrew Wheeler that his legacy carry on. ~Blessings
Jacqui recently performed her “Bluegrass” music at Leon’s (Houston, TX) Tuesday, February 26th.
Leon’s Lounge: 1006 McGowen St Houston, TX 77002; (713) 659-5366
For more information on where you call follow Jacqui Sutton (Jazzgrass Chic) music and or events:
Facebook: Jacqui Sutton (Jazzgrass Chic)