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Jazz Times Reviews Notes From the Frontier

Christopher Loudon | Jazz Times

Her career has taken her from Madison to San Francisco to Portland to Manhattan, but it wasn’t until Jacqui Sutton arrived in Texas that she found just the right setting for the boldly unpredictable meld she calls “frontier jazz.” The Houston-based Sutton has been singing her entire adult life but didn’t cut her first album until two years ago, at age 50, paying homage to wildly disparate trailblazers Billie Holiday and Dolly Parton.

Widening her celebration of American musical spirit, and again teaming with the Texas musicians she’s dubbed the Frontier Jazz Orchestra, Sutton opens with a “Summertime” that serves as splendid introduction to the steel of her pipes and the majesty of a voice that marries the earthiness of Cassandra Wilson to the warmth of Dianne Reeves. Jazz, bluegrass and honkytonk slip and slide together in Sutton’s crafty blend of “Hummingbird” and Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo à la Turk,” while “Nature Boy” is reinvented as a fiery tango sung in English and Spanish. She unearths a pair of markedly different patriotic pieces from classical composer Lee Hoiby—the uplifting “Lady of the Harbor” and, revitalized as a bolero, the anthemic “Where the Music Comes From”—and dusts the twangy “Blue Mountain” with gentle jazz harmonies.

But Sutton also appreciates when dramatic re-imaginings are neither appropriate nor required: She keeps the tender lullaby “Jenny Rebecca” true to its delicate folk roots, and exercises her considerable acting skills across the vintage pop-culture collage of “Better Than Anything.”

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G. Edwards of “Gapplegate Music” Reviews “Notes from the Frontier”

G. Edwards | Gapplegate Music Reviews: “The latest one by Jacqui Sutton, vocalist extraordinaire, is a kind of giant leap forward into a realm of creative Americana … It’s a generally excellent selection of surprises that straddle jazz, roots, country and all kinds of American elements juxtaposed with rather extraordinary arrangements.”

“The latest one by Jacqui Sutton, vocalist extraordinaire, is a kind of giant leap forward into a realm of creative Americana. Notes from the Frontier (Toy Blue Typewriter 002) brings together Jacqui’s very fully enacted vocals with the unusual instrumentation and sonic mix of her Frontier Jazz Orchestra–including cello, banjo, electric bass, trumpet, trombone, percussion, piano, and so forth.

There are some Americana standards like Gershwin’s “Summertime,” and Ahbez’s “Nature Boy,” and unexpected things like a version of Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk” paired with “Hummingbird,” and neglected obscurities that have definitive voicings–“Lady of the Harbor” very much comes to and stays in the mind. It’s a generally excellent selection of surprises that straddle jazz, roots, country and all kinds of American elements juxtaposed with rather extraordinary arrangements. And a vocal performance by Jacqui that does the same with the vocals that the arrangements do to the instrumental backdrop–she combines ways of singing that extend our heritage and make it very new.

It’s the opposite of a ho-hum standards “jazz vocalist” release. It’s vivid, exciting and very innovative in ways that may well get her some airplay and positive attention.

I am an enthusiast, anyway! G. Edwards (March 2013)

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All About Vocals Reviews “Notes from the Frontier”

Constance Tucker | All About Vocals: “Sutton and her amazing band satisfy, inspire, entertain, and energize over the course of 12 captivating songs …”

Jacqui Sutton the true voice of Americana Jazz. Though she has coined the phrase Frontier Jazz, her sound blends the elements of the best of all traditional elements into an updated hip and soulful sound that blurs the lines of Americana, Bluegrass and Jazz for a delightful fashioned sound that one can’t help but immediately enjoy.
Her debut, offering Billie & Dolly (Toy Blue Typewriter, 2010) celebrated two opposing yet connected figures as both were pioneering women in their own genres. A tribute to Dolly Parton and Billie Holiday certainly let the listener know that ordinary would never be Sutton’s approach. Now, with the release of Notes from the Frontier, this solidifies her path as a pioneer burgeoning a new sound that yes, has reminiscence but is truly her own brand.
A rootsy take on Gershwin’s “Summertime” takes the listener through a terrain of peaks and valleys musically, while vocally – Sutton uniquely ties a blend of dramatic Broadway attack, plucky rootsy grit and soulful straddles of jazz. “Weary Angel” has a powerful longing with a jazzy flavor mixed with swampy seduction. “Lady of the Harbor” twangs with American life-force, laced with Celtic vibrations of flute, keyboard, melodion, trombone, cello, bass, percussion, banjo and guitar.
Each cut exemplifies Sutton’s varied palette for music. Notes from the Frontier is an amalgam of American heritage, organic authenticity and the spirit of the heartland. Sutton eloquently blends the truest forms of Broadway, Americana, Folk, Bluegrass and Jazz into a lasting embodiment of American essence, a path I hope she continues to follow.

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The Borderland Music Watch Reviews Notes From the Frontier

John Peters | The Borderland: “Notes From The Frontier is an exceptionally inventive album, spreading its wings over several musical genres, but always rooted firmly in Jazz. Ms Sutton and her musicians offer a vision of jazz with deep roots in Americana. Highly recommended.”

The frontier in this instance is Jazz, and vocalist Jacqui Sutton and her Frontier Jazz Orchestra have taken the usual jazz framework and turned it inside out, bringing in rootsy bluegrass, country and blues elements along with a healthy bit of theatrical trickery to make Notes From The Frontier a unique listening experience. I think it fair to say that this album doesn’t sound like anything else you may find out there. Based in Texas and using Houston-based musicians, there is a sort of antique dustiness to these sounds – as if the music has been taken directly from old 78 rpm discs and re-performed ‘as is’.

This is strongly aided by Ms Sutton having a unique voice stretching several octaves and using it at times like a horn player for soloing and scatting. The twelve songs on the album are a mixture of little-known bluegrass tunes and classic jazz songs, sometimes mashed-up together to create something very different to their original sounds. The Frontier Jazz Orchestra is a pocket-sized one but with most musicians being multi-instrumentalists the sound is big and rich in variety.

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NOTE: Scroll down quite a bit, or do a site search under “Jacqui Sutton”.

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Paul Freeman of “Pop Culture” Reviews “Notes From the Frontier”

Paul Freeman | Pop Culture: “This musical free spirit effortlessly casts aside boundaries and weaves elements of soul, folk, bluegrass, Latin and more into her uniquely captivating interpretations.”

Sutton, a wondrously inventive vocalist, explores “frontier jazz.” This musical free spirit effortlessly casts aside boundaries and weaves elements of soul, folk, bluegrass, Latin and more into her uniquely captivating interpretations. Think you’ve heard every possible take on “Summertime” and “Nature Boy”? Sutton whips ups completely fresh versions, while holding onto the songs’ emotional essence. Imaginative, diverse instrumentation complements her expressive voice.

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