Jazz & Bossa CD Review: Jacqui Sutton – “Billie & Dolly”

Jazz and Country? Billie Holiday and Dolly Parton music in the same CD? Seems like an odd combination. Billie and Dolly is the tittle of Jacqui Sutton new album, but in reality just two songs are from Lady Day and the Queen of Country, God Bless the Child and Endless stream of tears. The rest of the album is a unique fusion of Jazz and Bluegrass.

I know that musicians like Bela Fleck has been doing something similar, but it is the first time I hear a singer trying this fusion in a whole album. And the results are pretty good, Jacqui is a singer with good vocal range and a distinctive style. Jacqui cites both Dolly Parton and Billie Holiday as two major influences on her, and you can hear both on Jacqui voice, mixing the blues and swing of jazz and the yodeling of bluegrass in songs like God bless the child and The moon is made of gold.

The use of the banjo and cello accentuate that bluegrass, country feeling in songs like Memories of you, Keeper of your love and Mississipi Song. Pianist/trombonist/composer/singer Henry Darragh did the arrangements for all the songs on this album and also played piano and trombone.

Tracks: God bless the child, Black Hole, Lazy Afternoon, Keeper of your Love, Those memories of you, My man’s gone now, Risk, The moon is made of gold, Mississipi Song, A sleepin’ Bee, Endless stream of tears

Artist’s Website: http://www.jacquisutton.com Reviewed by : Wilbert Sostre


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“Houston Music’s” Andrew Dansby Says Jacqui Sutton Combines Jazz with Bluegrass

That Jacqui Sutton titled her new album Billie and Dolly says much about the type of music she’s making. More than a nominal tip to two different music legends, the album’s title speaks to Sutton’s efforts to forge some new sort of American music from elements that are wonderfully compatible despite disparity in their roots.

“I feel like I’ve always listened to both Billie Holiday and Dolly Parton,” Sutton says. “They’ve always been in my ear. I not only appreciate them as stylists in those two genres, but because they were such amazing entertainers. About 10 years ago, I wondered if I could make them work together.”

A native of Rochester, N.Y., Sutton got her start singing vocal jazz in her early 20s in San Francisco. She took a different route, working for several years in theater in New York before returning to singing. Three years ago, Sutton’s husband began pursuing a creative writing Ph.D at the University of Houston, and local keyboardist Henry Darragh helped her assemble a band in Houston to execute her vision for an inclusive sort of American song she calls New Frontier Music, an earthy and rootsy jazz.

“It’s really all about what I respond to,” she says. “But it takes these great musicians to pull it off. They’re jazz musicians who don’t have a funky attitude about bluegrass or classical music. They understood it could work, and they put their hearts into it.”

Sutton hopes to record another album next year called American Anthem that further develops themes of inclusivity. “I’m hoping to touch on what it means to be American and what American music is. And to be a reminder that we’re a nation of immigrants.”

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KUHF’s “The Front Row” – Houston’s Vibrant Arts Scene: Billie & Dolly… & Jacqui

Here’s what’s happening on the Houston jazz scene this week from KUHF’s Eric Ladau:

Innovative singer Jacqui Sutton brings her freshly minted “Frontier Jazz” to The Front Row Thursday, December 9.

Jacqui Sutton grew up inspired by Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and The Jackson Five,

among many others. She was acutely sensitive to music. Even schmaltzy “elevator” music could catch her attention and send her into a state of reverie. As a young lady she learned her musical basics studying the flute.

Although she had little singing experience, she joined Jazzmouth, a San Francisco-based jazz vocal ensemble in the 1980’s. Jazzmouth’s vocal director Molly Holm taught her the discipline and focus required to excel as a vocalist — soloist or ensemble. The following years were spent in Portland, Oregon; New York City; and finally Houston. Along the way Jacqui dabbled in dance theater, Shakespeare, break dancing and Bluegrass music. Always eager to learn more and to refine her style, Jacqui studied with University of Houston Moores School Professor Cynthia Clayton, who “helped her love singing for the first time in her life.

Inspired directly by banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck, Jacqui formed The Frontier Jazz Orchestra to perform and record a fascinating amalgam of Bluegrass- and Jazz- influenced tunes. He new CD, Billie and Dolly, is dedicated to Billie Holiday and Dolly Parton, Jacqui’s favorite singers. The Frontier Jazz Orchestra consists of pianist and arranger Henry Darragh, trumpeter Dennis Dotson, cellist Max Dyer, flutist Aralee Dorough, bassist Anthony Sapp, percussionist Ilya Janos and a special bluegrass touch added by Paul Chester on banjo.

The CD release party for Billie and Dolly will take place Friday evening, December 10 at 8pm in Duncan Recital Hall of Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. A CD signing and reception will follow the concert.

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