Dan Bilawsky | allaboutjazz.com: “Her aptly named style—Frontier Jazz—is synthesized through the marriage of bluegrass, musical theater, classical influences, jazz and more, but isn’t purely based in any one of those categories; if record stores still existed, they’d have a hell of a time trying to file this one.”
In America’s infancy, exploration and a thirst for discovery were endemic to the human spirit. Over time, no stone went unturned, the world shrunk and people, by and large, became content with what they already knew. Something as simple as a new television program or electronic gadget now quenches the thirst-for-the-unknown that was once unquenchable in the mind of mankind, but true musical spirits aren’t satisfied in this manner; they never stop searching. These musical pioneers explore the cracks and crevices between styles to find something new and meaningful to say, and vocalist Jacqui Sutton belongs to this breed.
Sutton finds the old in the new, the new in the old, and the joy in blurring lines that some refuse to blur. Her debut—Billie & Dolly (Toy Blue Typewriter, 2010)—honed in on two different figures from opposite sides of the fence, honoring Dolly Parton and Billie Holiday in unique fashion. Now, with Notes From The Frontier, she’s broadening her gaze and taking a panoramic look at America.
Her aptly named style—Frontier Jazz—is synthesized through the marriage of bluegrass, musical theater, classical influences, jazz and more, but isn’t purely based in any one of those categories; if record stores still existed, they’d have a hell of a time trying to file this one. A rootsy take on Gershwin’s “Summertime” isn’t Broadway, Appalachia, soul or jazz, but a combination of all four, while “Nature Boy” is Carnegie Hall classicism, Nat King Cole and Argentinean tango rolled into one. “Lady Of The Harbor” cuts to the core of the American spirit, with Emma Lazarus’ famed “New Colossus” lines floating above a heavenly mixture of Irish flute, keyboard, melodion, trombone, cello, bass, percussion, banjo and guitar. An odd patriotic stirring comes to the surface on “Where The Music Comes From,” which is underscored by fife and drum classicism with a modern twist. All of this music speaks to Sutton’s sophisticated tastes and all-seeing eye, but she ultimately sounds best when working in neo-soul-meets-folk mode (“Summertime” and “Weary Angel”) or gentle, countrified environs (“Blue Mountain”). Her true spirit roams free on this material and connects to the heart and mind in myriad ways.
Notes From The Frontier is melting pot music with a heavy emphasis on the heartland, as seen through modernistic eyes. This is music taken from the branches that sprouted from the tree trunk that grew from the roots of the American people.