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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Midwest Record Entertainment’s Chris Spector Reviews Billie & Dolly

And now for something completely different. Sutton is a jazz vocalist that really likes to genre bend, comparing herself as a vocalist to what Bela Fleck does as an instrumentalist. While this might look like a tribute to Billie Holliday and Dolly Parton, there’s actually only two songs really identified with those two disparate vocalists and the rest are chestnuts that fall somewhere in the middle. Genre bending, with an ear toward Hot Club, Jethro Burns and Joe Venuti, this is cocktail music for the 21st Century where today’s kids finding themselves getting tired of being hipsters want some sophistication and don’t know how to get it or find it. Just when you think we don’t need another interpretation of “God Bless the Child”, Sutton kicks off this set with it and removes the tortured artist effect turning it into a roller coaster of a show stopper—and that’s how things get started. Sutton is an innovator and knows how to put her ear to good use. A sweet set that takes something familiar and makes it new and different without falling too far from the original tree. Check it out.

Volume 34/Number 8 November 8, 2010 MIDWEST RECORD 830 W. Route 22 #144 Lake Zurich, IL., 60047 CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher Copyright 2010 Midwest Record

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