Jazz Times Review of Jacqui Sutton – “Billie & Dolly”

Jacqui Sutton

Billie & Dolly

Jazz fusion, which is predominantly the domain of men, is crafted from a fusion of rock guitar and jazz, but vocalist Jacqui Sutton interprets jazz fusion with a woman’s touch creating a coalescence of cabaret jazz with shades of country and bluegrass, and she makes the mixture sparkle. Her new album Billie & Dolly from Toy Blue Typewriter Productions puts her own stamp on songs written by soul songstress Billie Holiday and bluebell crooner Dolly Parton. Demonstrating the ability to bridge blues, soul, funk, R&B, Zydeco-tinged bluegrass, and prairieland country, Sutton creates a new kind of Americana music, one that expands the frontiers and invites listeners to appreciate musical expressions that have been kept apart since their inception.

The comfy rhythmic swells of “God Bless The Child” and “Black Hole” have country overtones with swing- inspired nuances, and the bluesy quills of “Lazy Afternoon” are garnished in exotic chimes as the silky texture of the strings are contoured by the gentle flutter of the banjo performed by Paul Chester and the placid riffs of the flute played by Aralee Dorough. The billowy knolls of the bass by Anthony Sapp in “Keeper of Your Love” is blanketed in middle eastern accents and breathy atmospherics crafted by the flute and strings.

The jovial twits of the horns and the piping of bop-laced organ patterns penned by Henry Darraph in “Those Memories of You” have a New Orleans style swagger coupling a funky rhythm with country traits. The floating sensations adorning “My Man’s Gone Now” are woven with elegantly braided piano keys as Sutton’s vocals move up and down the scale with the finesse of an emotive singer. The bass solo opening “The Moon Is Made of Gold” has a torchlight sheen as Sutton’s vocal slides meld into the tranquilizing ambience. The flouncy pickings of the banjo in “Mississippi Song” have a catchy rhythm and the drowsy flickers of “A Sleepin’ Bee” caress the senses.

Produced by Sutton, Billie & Dolly is a pleasing blend of uptown jazz, southern blues, prairieland country, orchestral rivulets, and bluegrass vibrations. The one denominator threading these elements is that they all have roots in America’s heartland, which is where Billie Holiday and Dolly Parton’s music was fashioned from and spoke of to audiences. Sutton combines these elements with the instincts of a sage and the affection of a woman who has this music in her blood. Her interpretation of jazz fusion is unlike her predecessors as she handles it with a woman’s touch.

Personnel: Jacqui Sutton – vocals, Henry Darragh – piano/keyboards/trombone, Paul Chester – 6 string banjo, Max Dyer – cello, Anthony Sapp – bass, Ilya Janos – percussion, Dennis Dotson – trumpet/flugelhorn, Aralee Dorough – flute; Guests: Lyndon Hughes – background vocals, Randy Dunn – Theremin, and Allen Huff – accordion

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, Mississippi Song, A Sleepin’ Bee, Endless Stream of Tears

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